For the past few years Judd Apatow has been quietly establishing himself as a comic intellectual. The man behind bangers like The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, and Pineapple Express has developed a cult following similar to the one that crushed on every little thing that John Hughes put on the silver screen in the ‘80s. Now Apatow has returned to bless his loyal followers with This is 40, which follows up on beloved Knocked Up characters, Debbie (Leslie Mann) and Pete (Paul Rudd, who’s proving to be the Molly Ringwald to Apatow’s John Hughes).
Having already taken us into scenarios that involve virginity at an age where a midlife crisis is more common and the good ol’ tale of the one night stand turned baby mama, Judd decides to take on the sanctity of marriage with This is 40. The story of a married couple that deals with their 40th birthdays in entirely different ways.
Like the 2012 version of Demi Moore, Debbie can’t cope with the fact that she’s old, wrinkled and her daughters think she might be mental. Obsessed with health and beauty (though she sneaks in a smoke here and there), Debbie’s view of her declining beauty has caused her to lie about her age even on her doctor visits. Even her personal trainer (Jason Segel) can’t do anything for her self-esteem with his flirting and half-hearted come-ons. The salt in her growing wound is the hot young thing she employs named Desi (Megan Fox), who looks like she came out of a oven and who doesn’t mind getting her back blown out on the counter when no one’s around. And she also may or may not have stolen $12,000 from Debbie’s boutique.
Pete, on the other hand, has no quarrel with another year added to his life. But he has financial problems of his own, as his struggling indie record label has left him on the verge of selling his house (sorry Kid Rock, this label doesn’t exist in real life). And even though he tries to be the ideal husband, not only does he hide their mounting financial problems from his wife, but he also unintentionally adds to his wife’s mounting insecurity issues. This was the case when he let her know that he popped a Viagra pill before having sex and justifies his action by pointing to his enhanced member and declaring, “my usual hard-ons are analog. This shit is f**kin’ digital!”
Adding to the hassle of growing a year older are their two daughters (Apatow and Mann’s real life daughters), Charlotte (Iris Apatow) and Sadie (Maude Apatow), who annoyingly uses up all her camera time to revel in the greatness that was Lost. She throws wild fits and gives little Charlotte a hard time for being a child. You almost wish Sadie would move into the house featured in Don’t Be Afraid of The Dark and be eaten by those tooth fairies.
Not to mention that both Pete and Debbie have daddy issues. While Debbie barely knows the father who abandoned her, (John Lithgow still living off his Dr. Dick Solomon impression), Pete’s dad (the crazy funny Albert Brooks) is around way too much, and was a primary factor in the couples bankruptcy.
This is the life that Apatow chose his subjects to personify and it worked. It’s a common set of scenarios that face upper-class families that were basically collaged together and broken down for our entertainment. Apatow does a great job of reminding us that growing old shouldn’t mean that we’re closer to death, but richer in life experiences and hence that much wiser. That having the perfect mate to shore up your shortcomings makes all the difference in the world (as is the point in most of his films).
Though it was advertised as a comedy, This is 40 had a dramedy vibe to it a la the disappointing Funny People that felt about 30 minutes too long. When it was funny, it was fantastic, but when it wasn’t, it was a lagging. We get it. Saying 40 is the new 20 is cool, but when you have kids, a mortgage, and a business to run, your 40 is that good ol’ fashioned 40, period. Act accordingly!