Starring: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Maude Apatow
You may like this if you liked: Knocked Up (Judd Apatow, 2007), Forgetting Sarah Marshall (Nicholas Stoller, 2008), The 40 Year Old Virgin (Judd Apatow, 2005)
Pete (Rudd) and Debbie (Mann) are a married couple both approaching their 40th birthday. Their two daughters hate them and the debts are piling up, these are however just a small part of their problems as the thought of turning 40 makes them re assess their lives and relationships.
Once again the quite prolific Judd Apatow steps away from producing to write and direct for the first time since the smug, overlong, self indulgent and extremely unfunny Funny People. Well, we now have the smug, overlong, self indulgent and unfortunately unfunny This is 40. When on the credits is says ‘based on characters created by Judd Apatow’ despite the fact it also says written, directed and produced by him there is a strong suggestion of a deluded feeling of self importance. Well after watching this two hour plus snore fest it confirms for me that as with so many others, Judd Apatow has officially disappeared up his own arse! He has even casted his two daughters (who have only both appeared in Knocked Up and Funny People) as the couple’s two daughters. Though they are adequate in their roles, it is further proof of how such a closed, insular and deluded world the film industry can be sometimes.
For me Judd Apatow films (director or producer) predominantly have a tendency to follow a basic structure: This is an extremely basic and predictable plot with a cheesy ending that could be covered in twenty minutes, and this is held together for over two hours by a series of improvised sketches. This is not necessarily a bad thing and for me The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Bridesmaids are, though a little inconsistent, overall tremendously enjoyable and most importantly, FUNNY films. These films often contained a very talented ensemble cast that obviously enjoyed working together and it somehow just works. There is once again an extremely basic plot here with This is 40 and allegedly some kind of attempt to mix comedy with melancholic emotional drama.
Well for me this film is a complete failure on all counts as it is consistently unfunny, overlong and quite simply boring. It is a waste of the talented cast as they are not given any decent material, or story, or indeed anything to work with and Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann (both often amusing and likeable comic actors in my view) look quite bored themselves. There are so many scenes and subplots that simply do not work and I found the experience an extremely laborious effort to watch. Overall plot is not that important if we are given great, well written characters that we can really care about in situations we can relate to, but it is impossible to like any character in this film. Despite one of the key plot points being their money struggles, they still live in a typically huge house on a tree lined bourgeois suburb. When mentioned, it is dealt with such causality that it feels like a trivial matter, unless of course Apatow wants it be a major plot point again.
Some may argue that as I am a decade away from 40 I may not understand or relate to these characters. Well, firstly if Judd Apatow only wants those aged 40 and above to watch this then that is plain silly. Also, if this film was made with integrity and perhaps a little effort, then it would be characters and themes that any intelligent viewer can relate to and understand. There was potential here as all characters involved get a chance to re evaluate their lives which opens up the opportunity to make a film that contains all the drama, poignancy, melancholy and comedy that life presents. There are some potentially interesting subplots involving the couple’s respective family members and friends, but these just feel like they have been thrown in with absolutely no effort or thought. This produces an overlong, boring and alienating narrative mess.
Apatow seems to think the premise alone, along with his name attached to the credits, is enough. Maybe he thinks that the actors will save his poor material? Maybe he has always been like this and is actually not a particularly good writer/director? Either way, there is an obvious case of smug self indulgence here in which no one involved seems to try. Many have referred to this film as This is 40 Minutes Too Long and that is certainly true. Even giving a good 40 minutes of pointless scenes the chop, this would still be an extremely boring watch.
Judd Apatow takes what could have been a great concept and turns it into a self indulgent, unfunny, overlong, lazy and incredibly boring experience. This is a film with little redeeming features and only the occasional mild laugh, if turning 40 is like this, then I will definitely make the most of my next ten years!