This is 40 (2012)

The calm before the F-bomb storm

A disjointed film that takes you on a journey from nowhere to, well… nowhere. It’s supposed to be the sequel to the 2007 comedy Knocked Up and in some regards it is – same characters, universe, and timeliness. However, it seems to be more of an alternate universe than a continuation from its predecessor.

We shift focus into the world of Pete (played by Paul Rudd) and Debbie (played by Leslie Mann) who are still together after the events of Knocked Up. Their children Sadie (played by Maude Apatow) and Charlotte (played by Iris Apatow) have grown up, and they still all live in a lavish house in a upperclass part of Los Angeles. With the time from their last appearance to now, the children have become problematic. Teenage years, and cranky fights with each other make living at 40 quite hectic. On top of that, Pete has lost his job with Sony and started his own record label, which is struggling to not go under. Debbie has a boutique clothing store, which is also struggling to break even despite salesgirl Desi (played by Megan Fox) making extraordinary sales.

So now we’re up to scratch with what has occurred since last time, lets discuss why the writer/director/producer Judd Apatow doesn’t quite hit the mark this time compared to his other films.

Firstly, it seems lost (sorry). It doesn’t know if it wants to focus on the 40th birthday party for Pete, the fact that Debbie is actually 40 not the other made up ages, that the children are growing up and apart, that their (Pete and Debbie) parents have caused insecurities in their own parenting, or the struggles with money. Admiration to Apatow for writing such intricate topics into what normally is a comedy film, however I think he falls short of what could have been with the film.

The writing is sloppy, and excessive. The only times that seem to make it a great flick are the moment when the swearing (the entire lot of it) starts rolling off the tongue. Every other scene that has mushy mushy love, or lines where one person talks seemingly to a parrot, mimicking every word just uttered. I’m unsure if Apatow is making fun of couples who talk like that or somehow thought it was a decent idea to have every scene written that way (I’m inclined to say the latter).

Don’t get me wrong, this film has snippets of pure comedy, but for the most part it feels too constructed, far too scripted, and clearly directionless. Apatow at least could have tightened the dialogue (and effectively the entire film). There was more times I was screaming “cut, cut, cut, cut it now!” than actual laughter. It felt like those moments when someone takes a joke too far, and nobody tells them they should stop.

But I can’t stop there – this film is confusing on a broader scale. The lack of direction, and plot made me wonder why I was watching this film in the first place. The fact the whole ‎2 hours and 14 minutes was just a lead up to Pete’s 40th birthday really didn’t sit well with me. Here is a family that is on the brink of losing their house, two businesses, and on the edge of destroying their entire family and we only have one conversation about the party (that lasts about a minute). A party, I will add that is completely catered for, inclusive of gazebo, and waiters. It’s a whole lot of contradictory segments, that appear to have been filmed separately and stitched by random lottery.

At times it seems Apatow want to take Seth MacFarlane’s Family Guy and turn it into a feature length film. But we already saw Ted, it doesn’t work the same. We need amplified structure, cause and effect, and stakes for the characters. They were present in This Is 40, and at certain times you would slide closer and closer to the edge of your seat hoping this was the plot turn for the better, until somebody makes a joke (an untimely one) that ruins these amazing portrayals of real life family.

Furthermore, the all star cast seemed to get in the way of what was important. There were more characters than cupcakes, a lot of who played awkward filler characters. They held no real influence to the film or the fact that 40 was not all it was cracked up to be, rather it made you wonder how long this film was going to go for every time someone new popped up.

Albeit, Judd Apatow knows comedy, and he knows how to play an audience. But something fell short in this film compared to his previous works that make you wonder if he is trying to milk this (40 Year Old Virgin/Knocked Up) money cow dry?

But he’s got the money, influence and history of success to do whatever he wants with whomever he wants in his films. And it’s nice to see he is loyal enough to stick by his friends. I just wish he had a little less calling on the edit so maybe someone would find him a good editor to help him make tougher choices and trim the fat from movies like this one.

If it’s anything to go by, and what Apatow has rumoured to have said, we can expect several more continuations of his universe of characters. Am I excited to hear this? Yes, but from now on I’m a little hesitant to what he can pull off – I need another 40 Year Old Virgin film.