This is 40 Review

This Is 40 is writer/director/producer Judd Apatow’s sort-of sequel to his 2007 hit comedy, Knocked Up. Knocked Up was about what happens when a 25 year old stoner named Ben (Seth Rogen) has a one night stand with an up and coming TV personality named Alison (Katherine Heigl), which unexpectedly turns their lives upside down when one of his sperms infiltrates one of her eggs and creates a human fetus. Alison lived with her sister and brother-in-law, Debbie and Pete (Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd), who played a major role in her life, but Alison moved out at the end of Knocked Up, which means Debbie and Pete get to have This Is 40 all to themselves. The only real reference to the previous film is when Pete mentions that he has a pot cookie that Ben gave him last Christmas.



In Knocked up, Debbie and Pete went through a separation and eventually reconciled, but their relationship hasn’t gotten any easier over the past five years. Raising two kids and financial issues have really put a strain on their marriage to the point  where they have even gone to couples therapy to try and save it. Whenever they need a break from each other, Pete retires to the bathroom for 30 minutes at a time multiple times a day with his iPad. Debbie sneaks upstairs to smoke a cigarette while hanging halfway out of a window with  a dishwashing  glove on one hand and a bottle of perfume in the other.


No doubt there have been plenty of stress filled moments throughout their marriage, but it is the tandem celebration of Pete’s 40th and Debbie’s 38th…ish birthdays that might be their breaking point. 40 is the age society has decided that everyone needs to start preparing for death, and if life hasn’t exactly turned out the way you wanted it to, then this is the time to start making some changes, which could possibly mean throwing everything away and starting over.


Both Knocked Up and This Is 40 are deeply personal films that show what Judd Apatow worries about and has gone through as he has transitioned into a grown up with a family of his own. The mother, Debbie, and two daughters, Sadie and Charlotte, are played by Apatow’s real life wife, Leslie Mann, and daughters, Maude and Iris Apatow, which means there is an authenticity to the film that random actors on a sound stage could never replicate. Even though the movie takes place over the course of a week, it feels like a documentary crew has been following this family for a full year and each scene shows what they captured each time they dropped in to film for a few hours. Every scene is a joy to watch and full of life, but there are plenty of plot lines that don’t feel all that integral to the main story. Good thing those minor scenes are so funny or else it would seem like Apatow likes to torture his audience with his 2 and a half hour long movies.


The reason Apatow’s films are a little longer than most comedies is because he takes the time to really develop his characters. Every relationship is complex and he doesn’t cut corners by using stereotypes. The best examples of that are both Pete and Debbie’s fathers. Pete’s father, Larry (Albert Brooks) is an unmotivated mooch who is afraid of upsetting his new wife who just had triplets via in vitro fertilization. He may be the one person putting the most strain on Pete and Debbie’s marriage yet he still manages to come off as insanely likable because every word out of his mouth is hilarious. The polar opposite of Larry is Debbie’s dad, Oliver (John Lithgow), who picked up and started a new family when she was young, and even though it is always uncomfortable, Debbie and Oliver try to get together for lunch every 7 years or so to catch up. I would not be disappointed if Judd Apatow decided to continue giving his secondary characters their own spin off films if the next one was about Larry and Oliver living an Odd Couple-esque life together.


Something that I find fascinating about the movie is that what you take away from it and which characters you side with could very well be different depending on your own background. Both Pete and Debbie have their faults, but I was constantly siding with Pete. As a cupcake eating, classic rock loving, Eastern medicine rejecting white guy myself, I felt like Debbie was the one who wasn’t being reasonable most of the time. Looking back on the film, I know they were both being pretty stubborn and I might be slightly sexist.


Even though it is not a pre-requisite to have lived the same life of the characters in a movie in order to enjoy it, I could see how some audience members might not have the patience to listen to a bunch of white people who live in a mansion complain about their money problems for two hours. Nonetheless, the problems this family faces in this film are valid and threatens their way of life, and even though they may be better off than most of the world, it is still fascinating to watch them work through those problems.


I doubt it will end up being the box office hit that Knocked Up was, especially with Django Unchained and Les Misérables as its holiday competition, but This Is 40 should not disappoint those people who enjoy a thoughtful character driven dramedy that feels more like a hearty meal rather than a quick piece of cake.

 Joey Vosevich 12.21.12

One Response to “This is 40 Review”

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