This is 40 (2012)
★★ / ★★★★
Debbie (Leslie Mann) is not happy turning forty. For her, being forty is considered the first step toward a hopeless descent to old age so she decides to tell everybody that she is only thirty-eight. Pete (Paul Rudd), Debbie’s husband, is also turning forty but he is less bothered. He is more worried of—and tries to hide from his wife that—his record label business is not making enough money to support his family of four.
“This is 40,” written and directed by Judd Apatow, casts a wide net in an attempt to capture anything funny or amusing within its vicinity. While it has a few good moments that range from disgusting humor to relatable and honest situations, there is simply too much padding. With a running time of over two hours, I laughed but I did not laugh enough.
When it focuses on the family dynamics among husband, wife, and their two daughters, Sadie (Maude Apatow) and Charlotte (Iris Apatow), there is a genuine feeling of family among them even if they are frustrated and yelling at each other. A memorable scene involves Debbie informing Pete what is considered good music nowadays. For her, it means something that is fun, danceable, and makes people happy. For him, the lyrics have to be meaningful even if the tune sounds like a dirge. It is comedic because we all know that good music is subjective, but the couple insists that he or she is the “right” one so the actors’ exaggeration functions as the punchline.
The dirty jokes are not held back, but the dialogue that leads up to and follows after them tend to sound like it is taken from a sitcom that is about three seasons in. A handful of the actors, central and supporting, share chemistry but there remains a feeling of an obvious buildup before a gag or witticism. The picture might have been stronger if there had been more variation in the screenplay, as well as direction, in terms of setup, delivery, and aftermath.
I enjoyed that it is willing to go for humor that might be considered offensive. For instance, Debbie confronts her daughter’s classmate (Ryan Lee) who had dared put Sadie on the “Not Hot” list on Facebook. It is so uncomfortable because we know (or should know) that yelling or threatening someone else’s child is inappropriate but it is hilarious because, admit it or not, at some point we all have wanted to talk to a child—especially an annoying one or a full-on brat—like he or she were an adult. Melissa McCarthy has a memorable cameo as the boy’s mother.
The story’s main arc involves money: Pete and his record label, Debbie and her shop missing over ten grand worth of merchandise. While it has its moments, especially with Debbie’s attractive employee (Megan Fox), they are not as interesting as the every day events that Pete and Debbie face as parents. Dealing with pecuniary issues is not specific to becoming a forty-something. In fact, the more the film focuses on their financial problems, the more it comes off as shallow, the characters whiny and their problems trivial, especially when I started thinking about lower-class families who do not even have resources to put food on the table the next day.
“This is 40” goes in one too many directions that it is able to sustain. There is drama involving Pete lending his father (Albert Brooks) money and Debbie’s father (John Lithgow) being absent for the majority of her life, but they feel tacked on. With its story’s scope, it would have been more fitting if the director had been more selective of scenes that work best as a comedy while keeping in mind its thesis instead of putting everything on the plate.