Dec 29, 2012
This Is 40
...hours long. Which is a real pity, because there is much in Judd Apatow's nepotistic extravaganza that is funny and true. That Apatow can turn the extremely privileged, self-absorbed lives of an LA family (Paul Rudd and the Apatow femmes: wife Leslie Mann and daughters Maude and Iris) into something moderately endearing is a testament to his gifts as a comedy writer. Unfortunately, he could have benefited from more artistic distance. As in, don't cast your own family; you may have more freedom to be disciplined, and perhaps even to dig deeper and make a much more resonant film about family troubles.
This Is Forty is self-indulgent in the benign way in which parents dote on their kids. Apatow is too in love with his family, (even as they are a pain in the ass sometimes, as he makes abundantly clear) to whip the story into shape. There are many pointless scenes, improvisations are messy, potentially interesting themes, like people having second families, are not pursued, and certain plot threads are unconvincing afterthoughts, like the belabored conflict with the grandfathers (Albert Brooks, incapable of playing nice, bless him, and John Lithgow, pitch perfect as a pinched Wasp).
Paul Rudd is his usual game self, as Pete, who apparently did amazingly well at some point in his life, but now he owns an independent music label and is incapable of signing a lucrative act. He seems to have all the money in the world, but he can't make more because he is true to his passion for 80s rock. So he's a bit of a loser, as LA goes. Wife Debbie (Leslie Mann) is freaking out at turning 40, even if she has the body of an 18 year old, and a miraculously creaseless face. The movie is a chronicle of the aches and pains of young middle age among the wealthy in L.A., where there is downright hostility against gluten, western medicine and body fat.
Leslie Mann, although giving it her all, is not the most endearing presence to carry a movie. She is best when she is happy, and quite hard to take when she is whiny and controlling, which is for most of the movie. Although playing as loosely as they can, she and Rudd seem uncomfortable around each other. The movie's rambling self-regard ends up exhausting our good will. This is a more than two-hour long nag.
The movie is mostly good natured, peppered with some classic Apatovian juvenile raunchiness (on the part of the adults, of course), but I was struck by how it became meaner as it progressed. Pete's dad was incredibly unsympathetic. He is very nice to his daughter in law, but a total dick to his son. Not only is he a relentless, unrepentant mooch, but there is a scene where he is also a coward. A scene in which Pete and Debbie lie through their teeth is funny, but it undermines our rooting for them. There is nothing wrong with people behaving like dicks in comedy, but the tone of this movie wavers between the adoring and the disparaging without ever achieving balance.