For a number of years, Judd Apatow has had his name on project after project after project in the role of producer (or executive producer). As a director though, he has only four big screen projects to his credit (all of which he also has a screenplay credit on as well): The 40 Year Old Virgin; Knocked Up; Funny People; and his latest, This is 40. This newest film is a “sort-of sequel” to Knocked Up, taking two supporting characters from that film and putting them front and center. It is funny and heartwarming and more than worth watching.
This is 40 stars Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann as Pete and Debbie – a not-quite-happily married couple struggling in the way that middle-aged people often seem to do. They have problems with their own parents. They have trouble raising their kids. They have trouble with money. The usual.
Pete is a record executive with his own label that is failing and Debbie owns a small shop that isn’t doing terribly well either. The couple has one teenage girl, Sadie (Maude Apatow), and a pre-teen, Charlotte (Iris Apatow) both of whom have their own stuff going on. Throw into the mix Pete and Debbie’s respective fathers, one of whom borrows money and the other of whom has not been part of their lives for years, and you have the sort of high stress environment anyone would find tough.
Apatow’s film may have a large number of swear words, some mild sexual situations, drugs, and other juvenile aspects but it isn’t a juvenile piece. This is 40‘s main strength is the fact that Pete and Debbie are real people with real lives and real struggles – the comedy is a result of heightening the situations and issues but never to the point where it leaves the realm of absolute believability. It is a comedy which adults will find funny, not one solely geared towards teens and those looking to recapture their youth.
Both Pete and Debbie are three dimensional, down to earth people who are, I would argue, really in love. It isn’t the pretty sort of storybook love that romantic comedies promise – they don’t see eye to eye on every issue, and sometimes fight like cats and dogs, but it’s love. The comedy comes out of that love not in opposition to it.
In the same vein, and not to give away too much about the movie, the film doesn’t offer a nice pat ending. Even there Apatow resists the temptation to tell us that Pete and Debbie live happily ever after, instead leaving us to wonder whether or not we’re going to get an Ugh We’re 50 in 2022 (fingers crossed). And, while it may appear vaguely nepotistic to put his children in the film (Apatow is married to Leslie Mann), both Maude and Iris Apatow deliver solid performances – it may actually work better that they’re playing opposite their real-life mother.
Under the heading of full disclosure I should say that I am not-yet-40 (it is in the not-too-distant future but not here yet), married, and have two children. In scene after scene I could see myself acting as Pete does (either now or in another 10 years). The film hits close to home, but rather than taking everything down a dark and dramatic path, it opts to go for humor in the way I think most actual human beings would too when given the choice.
The film’s other big strength is its brilliant cast. Outside of Mann and Rudd in the lead roles, we are treated to Jason Segel, Robert Smigel, Megan Fox, Michael Ian Black, Albert Brooks, John Lithgow, Charlyene Yi, and Melissa McCarthy in supporting parts. Brooks and Lithgow play Pete and Debbie’s fathers, respectively. There is a particularly great scene with the two men talking to one another, but separated the two are still hysterical. Perhaps next best in her supporting role is the unlikely Megan Fox. Fox plays Desi who, along with Charlyene Yi’s Jodi, is an employee at Debbie’s boutique. Desi is the store’s eye candy (and a great saleswoman due to that), kind of an idiot, and generally a wild-and-crazy influence. Fox manages to be truly funny in the role, even if she is regularly the butt of jokes.
As for the Blu-ray, This is 40, as you may have surmised, isn’t the most action-packed of flicks, but it is still not a schlub in its presentation. The colors are crisp and bright, the blacks are deep, and the level of detail is certainly not bad. Things are not overly saturated it is, and I’m sorry to use the word again, realistic. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is, for its part, solid, offering up an immersive environment particularly in the louder scenes, despite being dialogue heavy.
As with so many semi-improvised comedies, the This is 40 bonus features section is loaded with alternate/extended/deleted scenes, gag reels, and outtakes. Some things here are funnier than others but as with nearly all of this type of material it does become clear why they weren’t used in the finished film. The disc is also loaded with other sorts of featurettes. A 50 minute making-of is the highlight on this side of things. The piece goes through the entirety of filming and offers up a nice look at how the movie came to be. Also included are pieces on Albert Brooks, Graham Parker and the Rumour, a full-length commentary track, and more. The best of the funny stuff is a Triumph the Insult Comic Dog bit with the puppet doing his thing with the generally accepting cast (notably, Megan Fox seems to hate the treatment). The Blu-ray also comes with an unrated version of the film as well as iTunes and UltraViolet copies.
This is 40 is a brilliant comedic look at life, regular old life. It speaks the general suburban human condition without being one of those movies that comes down against suburbia simply because it is suburbia. The film is at times messy and not everything works perfectly, but that only makes it feel more real. It is an unassuming, wonderful, movie.