Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

December 26, 2012

Apatow’s ‘This is 40’ shows amusing family reality

Andy Stuckey, Ryan Maddux
Greensburg Daily News

Greensburg — Judd Apatow’s latest movie is the middle-age dramedy, This is 40 (R).  

A spin-off from the family in 2007’s Knocked Up, ‘This is 40’ stars Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann as a married couple (with two daughters) struggling to come to terms with the next chapter in their lives. Jason Segel, Megan Fox, Albert Brooks and John Lithgow costar in the film.  

Ryan: It’s hard not to proclaim that This is 40 is not Judd Apatow’s most personal film. His wife and two real-life daughters star in the movie as part of this family going through a mid-life crisis of sorts. Clearly, one can see his ambition in the movie. When This is 40 is working, it’s vintage Apatow (an honest and crudely insightful comedy), but when it’s not the film becomes neurotic to the point of disbelief. But overall, even with the few misfires, I found the film worthwhile and one of the better comedies of the year.

Andy: I have to confess that when I was thinking about This is 40 a couple of days after watching it, I could not remember what sitcom I had been watching; then I realized that it was the movie. I don’t mean that entirely as an insult, but This is 40 plays like an extended cut of a high quality, single camera, no laugh track sitcom. There are moments that are poignant and honest, and there are moments that are tedious and not funny. Overall it is entertaining, but it is not highly memorable.

Ryan: I don’t mean this in a bad way, but This is 40 doesn’t really follow a story. The film is loosely based around a 40th birthday party for Paul Rudd’s character, but in some way that’s just a comedic MacGuffin. Apatow basically uses a stream-of-consciousness narrative showing various scenes and vignettes showcasing the everyday drama of this family of four. Honestly, the pacing is acceptable and the cuts between scenes are not superfluous. For the most part, the technique works as obviously the goal is to show a genuine family going through the trial and tribulations of everyday life.

Andy: This is 40 is good, but I found it largely underwhelming. Apatow has the skill and influence to make gripping, funny movies about American life, but his films somehow seem to be losing their urgency.  There is something missing in this film, and I think it has partially to do with the lead performances. Rudd does not to seem to be pushing himself here, and Mann doesn’t quite seem to have the chops to be the leading lady in a romantic dramedy.  

Ryan: I have to give props to both Rudd and especially Mann for their respected performances. I’ve always been a big fan of Rudd and he’s “doing his thing in this movie” in a manner that’s not yet annoying. But I really think it’s Mann who, for lack of a better term, carries the film. Some might find her character annoying but her character is clearly the one that holds the family together. She does an excellent job balancing the comedy and drama in the movie, while being the focal point in the film.        

In spite of some shortcomings, This is 40 is entertaining enough for a B.