Review : This Is 40 (2013)
"The Sort-of Sequel to 'Knocked Up'"
Released (UK) 14th February 2013, Rated 15. Runtime: 134 minutes (2 hours, 14 minutes).
Official Synopsis: A look at the lives of Pete and Debbie a few years after the events of Knocked Up.
Blue Corner Review, by Pete
Added April 15th, 2013
Recycling two of the characters from 2007’s Knocked Up, Judd Apatow’s ‘This is 40’ focuses on the Los Angeles based couple Pete (Paul Rudd) & Debbie (Leslie Mann) over the course of a week that sees both turn 40. Whilst this is very much a sour point for Debbie, Pete has conversely taken it in his stride, although over the next seven days the two will experience the full spectrum of highs and lows in both their professional and personal lives.
Feeling that the step into their fifth decade marks the need for change, out go her cigarettes & his cupcakes whilst there is a renewed urge to develop their relationship with their two daughters Sadie & Charlotte before they themselves grow up. On the surface, Pete & Debbie appear to be doing well, running their own retro-centric record label and an upmarket boutique, although it appears that neither are doing as successfully as their other half believes, with both businesses struggling as a result of signing flops and apparent in-house thefts respectively. Pete’s unwillingness to move on from his own love of 70’s rock bands for signing bands to his label highlights a self-indulgent side that is covered throughout the course of the film, whereas denial appears to be the contrasting character flaw selected for partner Debbie – why accuse your best employee of theft when you can bring her out on the town to relive your more youthful days?
As the two move to combat their problems, rectifying their own family issues becomes one of the key battlegrounds, with John Lithgow and Albert Brooks having contrasting success in their respective roles at Debbie and Pete’s fathers – Oliver & Larry. Lithgow I’m a big fan of, and I felt he done well with both the serious and comedic elements his particular character brought to the story. Brooks, on the other hand, I found lacked charisma, leaving me feeling that this character sponging (epically) off his son had almost no redeeming qualities that could endear him to the viewer. The two children (Sadie and Charlotte – Maude Apatow and Iris Apatow) are actually Apatow and Mann’s own, with the youngest getting some of the funniest put downs in the film.
Making up the remainder of the cast are the Apatow regulars – Jason Segel as the personal trainer-slash-ladies man, Chris O’Dowd & Lena Dunham as Peter’s co-workers, and Melissa McCarthy as the very highly strung rival parent. Introduced to said regulars is Megan Fox as one of Debbie’s employees, managing to do surprisingly well in a comedic role, although she has also managed to become the focus of each of the trailers thanks to her dressing room scene with Leslie Mann.
As with most Apatow films (and those of his protégée Jason Segel), This Is 40 covers a gamut of emotions under the comedy banner, using drama-centric threads to hold the comedic scenes (skits, in some places) together. Whilst I personally like this approach, and I’ve found some of their work to hold more insightfulness or sentimental value than a lot of out-and-out dramas that I’ve watched, I can imagine that some would dislike the inclusion of those elements rather than allowing the film to exist as pure comedy. It would be interesting to see just how much of an Apatow film is actually scripted, with many of the scenes feeling like the cast simply had free reign to follow a set topic, presumably taking what they felt to have been the best improvisations for the final cut. Scenes such as Pete and Debbie discussing how they would kill one another, or any of the prolonged rants (primarily Mann at a child, Melissa McCarthy’s character ranting at the school principal and every one of the scenes between Mann and Rudd) all appear to fall very much into adlib territory, although given that many of the more successful comedies of late have used that style it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
For all the talk of being in dire financial straits, this was the one thing that failed to translate on-screen, with the rather comfortable situation the family were in being at odds with their supposed fiscal meltdown. I appreciate that there’s putting a brave face on things, and perhaps Apatow was attempting to illustrate how far some people will go with their heads in the sand, but expensive weekends away and gifting tens of thousands of dollars to your parent doesn’t scream ‘we’re skint’ to the average film goer. The idea that the family would consider cutting down on the weekly food budget whilst continuing to drive their relatively luxury cars and paying thousands of dollars monthly to support their father’s IVF-powered second family just doesn’t mix, although I guess it is L.A.
In any ways this felt like a dramatic sitcom of sorts – the length, coupled with the rollercoaster highs and lows, would probably have allowed the footage to be split over a series of 30 minute episodic content fairly well. As it stands as a movie, it instead overruns quite substantially (a quote attributed to Mark Kermode at the time aptly suggested that the film should be renamed ‘This is 40 minutes too long’) – there’s several unnecessary subplots that could have been scrapped entirely, whilst many of the scenes could have been trimmed without impacting the material. Still, the excessive runtime failed to detract sufficiently from my overall enjoyment, meaning that it’s a further successful outing in my eyes for the Apatow camp.