Movie Review: “This is 40”: – A Golden Age Ripe for Comedy

Written by Spencer Sterritt December 23, 2012

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“This is 40,” the latest Judd Apatow film, has all of the fart, drug, shrewd women and dumb guy jokes that have been his stock in trade for the last decade, but they have never meshed as well before. For anyone thrown off by the extreme depression of “Funny People” or turned off by the broad humor of “Knocked Up” this is the Apatow film for you.

Picking up a few years after “Knocked Up” (and sans the Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl characters) “This is 40” focuses on Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann), and their lives have only gotten worse since we saw them last. The whole family is teetering on bankruptcy, depression and divorce and there’s constant fighting. It sounds like a total buzz kill, but damn is it funny. The whole film shambles along just like the march towards turning 40, with great guest turns by Melissa McCarthy, Jason Segel, and Chris O’Dowd filling out the story and giving it a distinctly episodic feel.

“Your eyes are starting to glaze over.” “I know, I’m just…processing it all.”

The key to “This is 40” is the cast- as it always is in Apatow films. His ensembles have always been great before, but they always felt to me like they were brought together just for the number of jokes they can bounce off each other, whereas now this ensemble feels brought together because of how good they are at finding all the pain and resentment under the jokes. You don’t really get much of it from the trailer, but when Pete and Debbie fight it’s pretty hardcore, a lot of screaming about the small things like cupcakes and farting and avoidance. And then it downshifts into the snarky nitpicking that almost always follows. Apatow and Mann’s own daughters, Maude and Iris as the two younger daughters, do equally good jobs, especially Maude as the older daughter. All of the familial angst gets put on her, and she does a wonderful job of showing how f-ed up parents can make their kids without realizing it.

It’s definitely freaky how relatable all of the characters are. Every time Pete would do something, like eat cupcakes instead of throwing them away, or start spouting off swear words like a fountain (including what is now my favorite phrase “eye c*nt) I would shift in my seat uncomfortably because I saw myself on the screen. He loves cheeseburgers and doesn’t care about his cholesterol, I love cheeseburgers and don’t care about my cholesterol. Here’s hoping that I end up looking like Paul Rudd when I grow up.

Paul Rudd, ass

Hopefully I never have to treat my partner to this view though

Judd Apatow films have always been about evolving and maturing, and he himself has definitely matured as a filmmaker. “This is 40” is only bloated by about ten to fifteen minutes, instead of a half hour, and the jokes are much smarter and more consistent, while still getting damn lowbrow at times. There are a few subplots I could have lived without, especially most of the stuff about Megan Fox, but other than that everything is mostly solid.

“Stop treating me like a child”

I say mostly solid because I am rather confused about the point of the film. All of the main characters are relatable in how they act, but their circumstances, especially in terms of their wealth, aren’t all that relatable. Pete and Debbie live a very upper class life, even with a struggling store and failing music label as their professions, and this indulgences are thrown in the viewers face the whole time. I can’t figure out if Judd Apatow is critiquing the upper class, and how caught up in their privileges they are, or if that is the life that he leads, and that’s the life he thinks most people lead. I get their frustrations about money even though they’re doing so relatively well, even the people with a lot of stuff have to watch their wallets, and the threat of a paycheck coming in a little lighter than usual or not at all is a stress that no one every really gets over unless you are uber wealthy. Still, it’s difficult to take discussions about money seriously when they live in a huge house and go to the office that they drove their BMW too.

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My other major complaint is how Debbie constantly compares herself to Megan Fox, and complains about her body. Leslie Mann looks fabulous!

“This is 40” works on a few different levels as well. It’s a stress-reliever for everyone as wealthy as Pete and Debbie, since they make it out alive in an ending that’s far too pat for my liking. It’s also a cautionary tale for all the young families out there, showing what their lives can become if they let their wallets and devotion to one another slip. And it works for all the younger unmarried kids that are there for the dick jokes because it shows them what they should never ever ever become.

“This is 40” is definitely my favorite Apatow film so far, in how it juggles the drama and the laughs, and the quality of both. It’s not faultless or perfect, but no one is, and the movie acts as a great representation of what growing up is actually like.

My Rating: 8/10

This is 40 poster

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About Spencer Sterritt

Spencer Sterritt

Spencer Sterritt: former Editor-In-Chief for We Eat Films, future President of the Men With Beards Club, and hopefully candidate for ruler of the world.

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