In a season of terrorism flicks, singing French urchins and Hobbit fantasy worlds, I was looking for a really good comedy. Instead, I found "This is 40."
In what is becoming a trend, filmmaker Judd Apatow has an excellent ear for comedy, and he should continue producing his best collaborations ("Anchorman," "Superbad," "Bridesmaids") - but directing clearly puts him too close to the material.
In this case, the movie stars his entire family, and he is unable to self-edit his own writing to a sufficient degree.
‘THIS IS 40’
As with his "Funny People" with Adam Sandler and "Knocked Up" with Seth Rogen, Apatow has made a movie that can be very funny at times, but it's also very repetitive. It needs more concise writing. It is far too long.
Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Albert Brooks,
Megan Fox, Jason Segel
Cinemark Tulsa, AMC Southroads 20,
Cinemark Broken Arrow, RiverWalk, Owasso,
Eton Square, Sand Springs, Moviestar Cinema,
2 hours, 14 minutes
R (sexual content, crude humor, pervasive
language and some drug material)
(on a scale of zero to four stars)
There are entire subplots here that could be tossed, but we're dealing with a filmmaker who has made a 134-minute movie about two supporting characters from "Knocked Up," checking in with them five years later to see how they're adjusting to middle age, family issues and financial crisis.
Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann (Apatow's wife) return from "Knocked Up," with daughters who are now aged 13 and 8 played by Apatow and Mann's daughters, Maude and Iris, who reprise their roles and who are old enough that they both have to act this time.
It's not a good fit. Despite some of their scenes clearly being re-creations from their own lives, that doesn't mean they can make these moments look natural on film.
The lives of Pete and Debbie in this sort-of sequel are ones of transition: the hip young couple turning the corner into the inevitability of middle-age malaise.
Their lives consist of prostate exams and mammograms, her sneaking smokes and him hiding their indebtedness. Then there's homework, housework and hormones. Yes, the pair look worn out at all times.
As Debbie chastises Pete for using Viagra ("We are young people, we don't need medicine to have sex") and laments her aging ("I don't want to shop at old-lady stores like J. Jill and Ann Taylor Loft"), there's no doubt that this will be two hours-plus of middle-class, white-people problems that don't always resonate.
Part of that disconnect comes from them sounding like whiners more than a couple truly in marital crisis. This is hardly escapist cinema, as far as comedy goes.
There doesn't seem to be anything at stake with these whiny, weak parents, and it's hard to care for another reason: They are frank and open with each other. They spend most of their time talking about their frustrations. It's clear that this has been going on for years.
If they haven't by age 40 solved what sometimes feels like residual teen angst, why should I care about these immature, hopeless, fictional characters?
"This is 40" (which feels at least that many minutes too long) is Apatow's continuing effort to mature in his filmmaking. He should abandon this effort immediately. It's not his calling to try to make Noah Baumbach or Wes Anderson movies.
Not when every time he attempts to conjure true sentiment it concludes with a sex joke or a gas-passing incident because even he doesn't trust his inclinations in making a more complex, mature film.
His first directing effort, "The 40 Year Old Virgin," was a simple delight balancing middle-age issues with raunchy moments (of which "This is 40" has many; a bawdy sense of humor is required, especially for those listening to children use profanity).
"This is 40" would be simpler if it didn't include a subplot about Pete secretly lending money to his father (Albert Brooks) that goes on endlessly, and Debbie's estrangement from her father (John Lithgow), which goes nowhere.
Scenes like these (and other subplots including Megan Fox and Jason Segel) make the film feel bloated. It's as if Apatow decided, "Hey, these people want to be in my movie; I need to find something for them to do."
"This is 40" can be funny and sweet and observant at times, from an audience standpoint of "How did they get a camera into my house to record my family's dysfunction?"
But it too often feels like the cinematic equivalent of Viagra - a movie that can sometimes feel as though it lasts up to four hours.
Original Print Headline: Family tries
Michael Smith 918-581-8479