Zac: This Is 40 is Judd Apatow’s messiest film to date, with plotless wandering, that while often funny, chooses to put its focus on its least compelling elements.
Lauren: Personally the title of messiest film to date still resides with Funny People for me because of its horrendous story structure, but This Is 40 is definitely on the lesser end of the Apatow spectrum.
The problem that this film suffers from, like many of his films, is that they are just too long. Where some films, like Bridesmaids, thrives in the awkward pauses and long, drawn out scenes that never end (to the pleasure of the audience), This Is 40’s similar scenes play out long past the expiration date, making for uncomfortable scenes in which it is no longer about the hilarity in the truth of the situation, so much as the depressing side of these reality checks. Leaving the theater, I overheard a woman say that if she wanted to see these painful elements of marriage in the time of midlife crises she’d simply live her life, and that’s not really something you want to hear leaving a comedy. It doesn’t have to be pure escapism, but it never hurts to throw a little more distraction in from the truth that sometimes life sucks by making the pain laughable.
Zac: That’s the thing, this one wasn’t long like the others (it felt like it though); it was only two hours. I think that lady’s reaction was kind of what Apatow was going for though, relatability. He wanted to take us through a journey of scenarios where we could relate with their struggles, but forgot to give us something to root for and entertain us along the way. Just because these characters were established from another film, doesn’t mean we are all that connected to them, and, unfortunately, there aren’t really any compelling narratives to grab on to and build those connections in This Is 40.
The characters I was most able to care about are the kids, played by Apatow’s daughters Maude and Iris, and the most interesting and genuine revelations seemed to come from their relationship with their fictional parents. The stuff with Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd comes across as been there, done that (sometimes even in another Apatow directed film) and the wandering improv nature of Apatow’s filming style has never felt so aimless than in this film. They needed a little more structure for the character’s to work towards as everything doesn’t really matter by the end of the film.
Fortunately, Apatow is still able to interject some genuine comedy moments and is able to round up a great cast from his stable.
Lauren: I can agree with enjoying the kids of the film, even if they are still growing as actresses. If anything, they provided a nice parallel to see how childish their parents often act towards each other and their struggles, and their characters were often how I related to the story most since that was the role that I have experienced in my own life. Plus Maude’s Lost through line was like looking into a mirror around the time of that show’s end (hopefully you’ve finished the series if you plan on seeing this and have somehow managed to remain unspoiled).
But goodness, there is just so much yelling as the marriage starts to crumble, and I was beginning to feel exhausted for myself, on top of being exhausted for Mann and Rudd’s reprised characters. There are far fewer “nothing” fights about Fantasy Baseball or seeing Spider-Man 3 without the significant other this time around; instead everything takes a toll, even if they do fall on the ridiculous side of things.
Thankfully there were new additions to the cast, like Melissa McCarthy, who added a great burst of energy back into the film to revive something that was already struggling, Chris O’Dowd as an employee of Rudd’s who provides great reactions to moments between Jason Segel (whose character has majorly evolved since Knocked Up) and Megan Fox. Heck, even John Lithgow’s absentee, “bad guy” father provided some relief from the film’s main throughlines because of how awkwardly he interacted with the family he didn’t really know.
Zac: I too am thankful for this nice comedic additions, Charlyne Yi gives one of the funniest scenes of the year, but I think all these characters are so poorly integrated most of the time that they become part of the problems with the film. Fox gets the most relevant and best storyline of all the side characters and I am happy to see her continue to spread her comedy wings. Albert Brooks is also quite hilarious most of the time as Rudd’s father and it is a shame that he didn’t fit into the movie better; especially since he is the third lead most likely. The plot line thrown on him and Lithgow was also so out of left field, it just further enhanced how random the movie was. Lena Dunham also probably had my favorite line of the film and this Girls fan wishes there was a bit more of her.
I also enjoy Leslie Mann, but I feel like her husband, Apatow, has made her basically play the same character three movies in a row now. You know your wife is talented dude, let her show some range. Rudd certainly feels trapped as well, and while still immensely likable it is still rather familiar.
Lauren: In the end This Is 40 still brought a respectable amount of laughs, but I couldn’t help feel disappointed in this spin-off because of how different this family was now that the magnifying glass was on them. Maybe they’re not the fun ones after all.
Zac: They certainly aren’t in this film and I think this is easily Apatow’s worst entry into his directorial filmography.