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Zimbio Review - 'This Is 40,' Comedy at its Most Excruciating

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The Bottom Line
Should you see it?

It has its moments, but Apatow's new film is like Funny People: It's way too long and has no idea how to end.
The occasional laughs generated by Judd Apatow's latest creation, This Is 40, do little to balance out the endless amount of bickering the filmmaker seems to revel in. If this film truly reflects how hard going over the hill was for Apatow, I feel sorry for him. His wife, Leslie Mann, stars in the movie and I'm sure the two imagined big laughs while conjuring a script out of all the quirky funny moments they shared in real life, but it doesn't mean there was enough of them to make an entire movie about. Fighting couples are annoying and this movie takes itself far too seriously not to be annoyed by the film's two lead combatants.

This Is 40 starts with shower sex and Debbie (Mann) freaking out when she realizes Pete (Paul Rudd) popped a Viagra. "Don't you think I'm sexy anymore?" Debbie whines as Pete weakly defends himself. Making a spin-off/sequel to Knocked Up and centering it on these two is like making a sequel to When Harry Met Sally and giving Jess and Marie the lead roles. Not that Rudd isn't funny. He does his best to save this awkward film. The problem is he's so much funnier and more likable than Mann, it makes you resent her. You resent her even more when she shows flashes of charm during a girls night out. She simply doesn't have it in her to be cool to her husband.

Revolving around a weak story with zero forward momentum, This is 40 tries to make us feel sorry for a couple that has money problems, but lives in a huge Southern California house and who drive a BMW and a Lexus SUV. Oh, and the biggest family problem is whether or not to take away the 13 year-old daughter's iPad. The film exists in a glaringly insulting reality that is much more infuriating than it is funny. This is... contrived nonsense.

Pete and Debbie are both turning 40 weeks apart, and (surprise) it's Debbie who has a problem with it. She wants the number 38 on her cake and she lies to her doctors about her age. Pretty original, no? Meanwhile, Pete hides his cupcake fetish and walks on egg shells around his sensitive wife. He's not innocent in their problems, as he continuously gives his father (a fantastic Albert Brooks) money the couple doesn't have.

Pete runs a failing record label that didn't sign Arcade Fire. The film loves to point out his lame taste in music (The Pixies, Graham Parker) while Debbie and their two young daughters listen to the "cool" stuff. There's a baffling amount of Parker's music in the film. As insufferable as it is, the bubblegum pop crap Debbie and the girls like is even worse. Apatow seems to think this is all very funny, but it's nails on the chalkboard.

The film's funniest scene involves a pot cookie and (remember they're in financial trouble) a getaway weekend that has Debbie scurrying around their motel room like a mouse, and Pete shoving a starfish in his tighty-whiteys and wondering aloud, "Where did I put my starfish?" The goofball stuff is great, but it's few and far-between.

It's worth noting the girls (Apatow and Mann's real daughters, Maude and Iris), Sadie and Charlotte, are great together. Sadie turns every slight into World War III, and Charlotte's goofy sweetness steals scenes. Along with Brooks, they lead a strong supporting cast including Jason Segel, Megan Fox, Chris O'Dowd, and Lena Dunham. Fox plays the hot girl character she always plays but she gets some laughs in the girls night out scene with Mann when she sticks former Philadelphia Flyer Ian Laperriere's false teeth in her mouth at a club.

What remains Apatow's biggest problem is his inability to finish his films. This one runs 134 minutes and it seems even longer. There were about four points near the end I thought the film was over, only to be treated to another scene that brought us no closer. The lack of narrative structure and plot is glaringly apparent when the film tries to wrap itself up. There's nowhere to go because nothing has happened and no one has learned anything. The idea of a portrait of modern middle-age life is nice and ripe for comedy, but the idea ends there. There's no story behind the endless vagina, hemorrhoid, and blow job jokes.

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