40? Sadly not: this is 140 minutes of monotony. I wish I could defend the king of the Frat Pack, but director Judd Apatow has offered audiences a self-indulgent mess with little to laugh about. Perhaps I’m too young to appreciate all of its
humour, but, at its core, This is 40 is too meandering and dull to be even entertaining, let alone funny. This comedy-cum-autobiography traces the foibles of a Los Angeles couple, Debbie and Pete, approaching their 40th birthdays. Starring Apatow’s wife, Leslie Mann, and his pet collaborator, Paul Rudd, This is
40 takes us through a fraying marriage and the neuroses of hitting middle age.
In an effort to make the best of what they have, Debbie and Paul vow to exercise more frequently, eat healthily, and improve their relations with their two daughters, Sadie and Charlotte, played by Apatow’s off-screen daughters (shocker!).Although the film deals with sitcom staples – a moody teen, a sex-starved couple – Apatow fails to deliver the laughs.
This is 40 plays on a flurry of ‘firstworld problems’ and consumer habits, but instead of making light of banal difficulties it offers up screaming matches. At one point Pete and a fellow husband begin to discuss how wonderful widowhood might be and it all gets decidedly gloomy. Two terrible fathersin-law, an estranged John Lithgow and freeloader Albert Brooks, are thrown into the mix to make matters even more depressing.
For those familiar with Apatow’s 2007 hit, Knocked Up, the characters Debbie and Pete might ring a bell. Their marriage formed the sub-plot to Katherine Heigl and Seth Rogen’s refracted boy meets girl set-up. As a sequel, This is 40 aims to bring our attention back to Debbie and Pete with more laughs and awkwardness. However, as a main storyline, it’s really difficult to care about their lives.
This is 40 plays out like a series of unwitty anecdotes. It’s not so much the directionless plot that’s bothersome, but the missed opportunities. Much more could have been made, for instance, about growing older in LA, where ageing naturally is almost taboo. It’s also unfortunate that some of the best comedic talents of recent decades – Jason Segel, Chris O’Dowd, and Melissa
McCarthy – have just bit parts. The cast itself is like an Apatow fan club. Yet, they’re missing his schoolboy humour to play with. If you don’t manage to drift off towards the end of This is 40, there’s no reward. You’re simply left with the realisation that this film, from the producer of the hilarious Superbad, is a drawn-out, humourless, mess of a comedy.