Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Review: "This Is 40"

Judd Apatow was not a household name until Knocked Up, the 2007 film he wrote, produced and directed. His only previous directorial effort was 2005's The 40-Year-Old Virgin (which is the film that more or less established Steve Carell as a bankable film star). We can also blame Judd Apatow and that 2007 film for Katherine Heigl's limited (and seemingly unending) run as a B-list star. This Is 40 is the semi-sequel to Knocked Up. Semi in the sense that it focuses entirely on the relationship between Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann, wife of Apatow), whose characters were the secondary narrative of Knocked Up. There is little need to have seen the first film, as very few references are made to it, considering that neither Heigl, nor Seth Rogen, make an appearance. I had not planned to even write a review for this film - as I barely enjoyed watching it. It is the ugly stepsister to Knocked Up. Reading through blog articles earlier today, I came across a few stomach-churning opinions that Leslie Mann (and Judd Apatow) deserve Oscar nominations for their work in the film. Scott Mendelson, writing for the Huffington Post, in an article about The Runner-Ups of 2012, claims that "Leslie Mann deserved a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominations for Knocked Up back in 2007 and now she darn-well deserves a Best Actress Oscar nomination for expanding and deepening the same character." Sorry, but Mann's Debbie is perhaps the most grating character I have encountered this year. That level of whining is not acting. Variety, a publication I once enjoyed before the firing of Todd McCarthy, goes further to claim that the criminally underused Albert Brooks could very well gain a nomination for Best Supporting Actor (for a role that required zero effort). So, in a nutshell, This Is 40 is a lazy sequel to one of the best comedies of the past five years, choosing to have his actors parade around whining instead of highlighting the comedic reality of married life at forty.

Pete (Rudd) and Debbie (Mann) are still married and living in the same California house, with their two daughters Sadie and Charlotte (played by Apatow and Mann's real-life daughters Maude and Iris). They are struggling to deal with Sadie's entrance into her teenage years, which comes with an obsession with Lost and a poor relationship with her sister. Pete, now in control of his own record company, has signed a client who is generating very little income. And Debbie's clothes shop is missing $12 000 (Jodi (Charlyne Yi has Debbie convinced Desi (Megan Fox) is the culprit). Adding to their stress, Pete's dad (Albert Broooks) is draining his son of money, and Debbie is trying to rebuild a relationship with her father (John Lithgow). To top it all off, Debbie is refusing to admit that she is turning forty while planning a 40th birthday party for Pete.

Judd Apatow has done a great job introducing audiences to interesting actors (including Jane Lynch in The 40-Year-Old Virgin) and Lena Dunham (through his production credit on her HBO series Girls). This Is 40 features performances from four actors in pathetic roles who deserve much better. Lena Dunham has a role that is as funny as it it is necessary. Jason Segel, as Debbie's personal trainer, milks every ounce of humour out of his role that it becomes a chore to watch. The true stars of Bridesmaids, Chris O'Dowd and Melissa McCarthy, also have meaningless roles (though McCarthy is pure genius in a post-film/pre-credit montage). This is 40 just feels lazy and unfinished. I never saw Apatow's previous effort, Funny People (2009), due to mediocre reviews and the presence of Adam Sandler, who has outstayed his welcome in my eyes. Sure, Pete and Debbie were an interesting couple in Knocked Up, but without a stronger group of characters and costars, it falls flat amidst Debbie's whining and Pete's childlike behaviour. I can just hope that Universal Pictures knew This Is 40 would fail in theatres that it gave the film a December 21 release date. Go see Django Unchained (it is funnier), or The Hobbit: An Unexpected Adventure (it will feel like a shorter experience), or even Les Misérables (the music is better!) instead. I might even suggest a different December comedy with an insufficient rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Parental Guidance (Bette Midler has to be less annoying than Leslie Mann).

My rating: 1.5 stars out of 4.

3 comments:

  1. Even "Date Night" was a better representation of life with children (at least there was a night guard involved in going to bed). Also, Mann and Rudd are far too good looking to reliably talk about getting old.

    Sadness.

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  2. That's one take. I just watched and actually laughed out loud the whole time. "date night"? Really? I think Leslie Mann was grating because that was the part she was playing and she did it amazingly. I feel a bitter reviewer here. Those who can do-right?

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  3. I don't think I felt quite as strongly about Leslie Mann being annoying as Matt did but perhaps you're right that she played the part she was given and given that perspective she did a VERY good job. As to Date Night, please don't misunderstand, the movie is terrible no question, I was just using is as a counterpoint.

    That aside, it's good to hear from someone who liked the film as judging by the numbers you weren't alone :) Perhaps it just wasn't my speed...

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