With Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Jason Segel, Albert Brooks, John Lithgow. Written and directed by Judd Apatow. Rated R for sexual content, crude humor, pervasive language and some drug material. 134 minutes.
Can we now finally consign Judd Apatow to the dustbin? What can be said about his best films, “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up,” is that they had an irreverent humor but they were way too long. Now lumbering in at well over two hours, THIS IS 40 takes two supporting characters from “Knocked Up” and gives them their own film. It’s a disaster.
Apatow presents us with Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) as they face their midlife crisis. Apparently, he believes they are typical of their generation, but you’ll be excused if you have trouble relating. You see, Pete is in the music industry and has just started up his own label while Debbie owns a stylish boutique. They live in a huge suburban house they apparently can’t afford (but keep anyway), and have money problems. However they don’t have money problems like you or me. Pete discovers that he can no longer support his father (Albert Brooks) and his father’s new family after having given him over $80,000, while Debbie is trying to find out who has been stealing large amounts of money from her store. They may qualify as “working poor” in Mitt Romney’s world, but the notion that they are in any way typical of 40-somethings may be the biggest joke in the film. The film is so self-indulgent that Apatow has cast his own daughters as Pete and Debbie’s kids.
What is the point? For over two hours we see them struggling with their money problems and with realizing that they’re adults with aging parents who are just as immature as they are. Her father (John Lithgow) has also started a new family and has been largely disconnected from Debbie. Except for Albert Brooks, who may have been ad-libbing some of the few funny lines in the movie, this is a collection of overgrown children who don’t have a clue what it means to be a responsible adult. This isn’t 40. Indeed, this is barely human.
If this is to work we have to like this couple and want them to work out their problems, but given that they behave like pouting middle-schoolers it’s difficult to care enough to even make it to the end of the film. Whether it’s sex or money or work, they seem incapable of having a grown up conversation or even acting like adults. In one early scene, they’re showering together and things are going hot and heavy until Debbie discovers that Pete has taken a Viagra. Why this should be a big deal (or a bigger deal than anyone taking a prescription drug that has not been prescribed for them) is not clear, but Debbie immediately disengages and is horribly offended. No, it doesn’t make sense, any more than anything else in the film.
“This is 40” is easily one of the most forgettable films of the season. Although Apatow has enjoyed some success as a producer (the disgustingly overrated “Bridesmaids” was his), as a writer-director his number seems to be up. After the equally overlong and self-indulgent “Funny People” three years ago, it’s clear he has nothing more to say. It’s telling that this is billed as a “sort of sequel to ‘Knocked Up’” yet the two stars of that film – Katherine Heigl and Seth Rogen – are nowhere to be seen. They’re better off elsewhere, and you will be too.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His first novel, Shh! It’s A Secret: A Novel About Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide will be released in January 2013. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.