Movie Review: “This is 40″

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Across the four films Judd Apatow has written and directed, one sees a slow progression from a big group of guys hanging out and other such funny froth (“The 40 Year Old Virgin”) to such serious issues as pregnancy (“Knocked Up”) and life and death (“Funny People.”) Now, with his new “This is 40,” Apatow concentrates on the ups and downs of modern marriage and leaves out the bro talk almost completely- not to mention the laughs.

Which isn’t to say “This is 40″ doesn’t have a whole lot of good to it. It’s well-acted and well-made, making use of a large supporting cast, and has some actual, valuable insights about modern marriage, even if the stars are much richer and much, much better looking than most 40-year-olds. But its 134-minute running time is too long at least a half hour and, once again, it’s a comedy that’s not particularly funny.

“This is 40″ is a spinoff of Apatow’s 2007 “Knocked Up,” focusing on the long-married characters of Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Apatow’s wife Leslie Mann), the latter of whom was the sister of Katherine Heigl’s character in the previous film. Facing their 40th birthdays, the two face struggles with finances, their careers and raising their two daughters (played by Apatow’s own daughters, Maude and Iris.)

For the film’s running time, Rudd and Mann alternately bicker and make up, bicker and make up, fighting about the sorts of things that married couples fight about. Does it get tiresome? A bit. But never particularly grating. Also, Mann’s character isn’t nearly as loathsome as she was in the earlier film.

That Mann and the two Apatow girls are a big part of their third Apatow film in a row should say a whole lot about what’s on the director’s mind these days. But I didn’t mind so much, because this stuff was clearly coming from such a personal place. Also, Maude Apatow, as the older daughter, is kind of great.

The supporting cast, as usual with Apatow, is a strength, led by Albert Brooks and John Lithgow. The two are playing two very different kinds of bad fathers, Brooks the inveterate Jewish moocher, Lithgow the distant, long-estranged WASP. There’s also a virtual all-star team of Apatow veterans showing up in small roles, including Jason Segel, Chris O’Dowd, Melissa McCarthy and even Lena Dunham. (Rogen and Heigl don’t appear, nor are their characters even mentioned.)

It’s not hard to see though, how that running time got so bloated. We didn’t need to see Rudd and Mann’s confrontation with a rival mother (McCarthy) at school, nor so much of Rudd’s attempt to revive the career of ’70s rocker Graham Parker. The movie also could’ve excised an entire subplot about Mann’s boutique, and the question of which of her employees (Megan Fox or Charlyne Yi) is stealing from her.

Fox has reached the point in her career in which she’s not going to be a movie star, but rather a bit player in comedies in which her being hot is the primary joke. The plot also brings us a scene- in which Woman A complements Woman B’s breasts, after which Women B invites Woman A to feel her up- that I feel like I’ve seen in about ten movies and sitcom episodes previously.

Meanwhile, Apatow really needs to stop trying to make Charlyne Yi happen, because she’s not going to happen.

Also, the Apple product placement is ubiquitous to just an absurd degree, to the point in which characters run through the names of the entire Apple product line numerous times. And there are many references to Lost; the characters in this movie are seemingly the only people who reacted to that show’s finale with anything besides crushing disappointment.

Like “Funny People”- which was a legitimately great movie until its disjointed mess of a third act- “This is 40″ is entertaining but very flawed. Still, one wishes Apatow would diversify a bit with his next effort, and get away from themes that are pretty well-trodden by now.

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