This is 40 teaches us marriage is crazy … and that’s OK
Judd Apatow’s semi-sequel to ‘Knocked Up’ is out just in time for the holiday weekend. Is revisiting the movie’s side characters worth it?
So, I’m 27. Just that fact alone had me wondering if I could relate to This is 40, the newest film from Judd Apatow about a couple dealing with change. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the movie worked … more or less. Anyone who watched Knocked Up will remember Pete and Debbie (Paul Rudd and Apatow’s actual wife Leslie Mann, respectively), the brother-in-law and sister of Katherine Heigl’s character (I should note now that neither Heigl nor Seth Rogen show up in the sequel). This is 40 looks at Pete and Debbie five years later, focusing on their struggles to keep their identities and sanity as they turn 40 while also dealing with financial issues.
Above everything, I appreciate that This is 40 was very clear that these two love each other. They might fight and be angry and be unsure in their marriage, but they do love each other. More so, it avoids the cliches of marriage as this horrible prison and the wife as a rigid harpy. Mann’s character in Knocked Up came off so tightly wound that she did lean toward the harpy trope, but here she’s much more realistic in her frustrations, her interests and her relationships with her husband and kids. Most of the laughs from the movie came not from mocking marriage or their lives but them looking at the ridiculousness of their lives and laughing at themselves … and as someone who’s been in the same relationship for over 7 years, I can definitely relate to the absurdity that comes with that. One of the funnier moments was when the couple discussed casually how they had each fantasized of killing the other. The scene could have been too macabre or disturbing, but these two play it just right. Even the grosser jokes are downplayed compared to Apatow’s other movies … and the only female nudity avoids being super sexualized, which was refreshing.
The run-time is a little long and considering the whole movie is supposed to take place over the span of a week, the pacing of the film was way off. Because Mann’s character specifically mentions that the big party that everything is leading to is a week away, it would have been helpful to put date markers up occasionally. There were also some story threads that were wrapped up either too neatly or too suddenly. Like Rudd’s Wanderlust and Jason Segel’s Five Year Engagement from earlier this year, This is 40 could have used some editing and refining pace-wise (although This is 40 is the most successful of the three).
After a while, the multitude of side characters and story threads weigh down the movie. Segel himself is reprising his supporting role from Knocked Up, but I barely remembered his character from the first film and didn’t find him very engaging except for his short rivalry with Chris O’Dowd toward the end of this movie. Apatow’s real life daughters reprise their roles as the kids and they were both very funny and believable as modern youths (with teenager Maude Apatow obsessed with her iPad and with Lost on her iPad in particular). And as a nice surprise, I liked Megan Fox as Mann’s sexy employee. Fox has strong comedic timing and I laughed at a lot of her lines, but it’s pretty clear she’s getting type-cast as the promiscuous young thing. I’d like to see her in practically any other role and see if she could pull it off.
All in all, This is 40 doesn’t make either protagonist the “bad guy” in the situation even if the situation is messed up. It waxes and wanes a bit too long and could have used more focus, but I enjoyed it and related to it more than I expected. If you’re looking for a kids-free date night movie, I’d recommend it.