This Is 40 review

Director: Judd Apatow

Starring: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Chris O’Dowd, Megan Fox, Melissa McCarthy, John Lithgow

Running Time: 134 Minutes

Certificate: 15

Synopsis: An LA couple finds themselves going through their midlife crisis as they approach the big 4-0…

It’s been interesting following the career of Judd Apatow from THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN to THIS IS 40. There’s a certain growing sense of maturity to his work. Sure, there’s still the odd flatulence joke, but what we have here are some of the most perceptive insights into real life relationships put on screen.

The film is a semi-sequel to KNOCKED UP, focusing on the ‘other’ couple, Pete and Debbie, played by Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann. Their shared birthday week is coming up and they’re both approaching 40 with the usual assortment of problems, parents, children and financial problems.

Enjoyment of the film might depend on whether you can relate to their predicament, with their financial problems coming from the economic downturn. He runs a failing record company; she runs a shop with a serious internal theft problem. Yet they live in an expensive mansion, they have money for personal trainers, couples therapy, iPads, and smart phones for the kids.

This film is about half an hour too long, especially considering nothing much happens. It’s the kind of story you would hear over a dinner party with your married friends. What we do get is a hugely personal and honest depiction of marital relationship. Judd Apatow clearly draws from personal experience, and has put his own family on the line in the film, which stars his own wife and two children. However, there is real chemistry between Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd, which wasn’t so obvious in KNOCKED UP.

Leslie Mann did shine in the previous movie, and here she actually reprises a scene, going to a nightclub to satisfy her self-doubt. Can she still pull at this age? It isn’t about infidelity, it’s about insecurities. One of the funnier lines in the film is when she ogles at and touches Megan Fox’s breasts, wishing her own was still as firm – ‘Mine left without even saying goodbye.’

THIS IS 40 actually links up well with KNOCKED UP – many scenes mirror or reference back – and the relationship between them shows how Judd Apatow has grown as a director. The stoner comedy is mostly gone, replaced with an insightful study of suburban family life. Some fleeting characters even reappear, such as the gynecologist and Jodi the stoner.

There are similarities to Apatow’s other films too – much like FUNNY PEOPLE, the THIS IS 40 fails to find the right balance between comedy and drama. Scenes with the very funny Melissa McCarthy feels like SNL skits, contrasting with awkward drama as Debbie meets her estranged father (John Lithgow). The dramedy format is an improvement on FUNNY PEOPLE, but is lacking focused direction.

Regardless, THIS IS 40 should stand up well with repeated viewing, when the nuances of Judd Apatow’s astute and subtle observations can be appreciated. Much like marriage, the film is at times directionless and overlong; in the end however it is something worth fighting for.

3 Stars THIS IS 40 arrives in UK cinemas 14th February