This Is 40: Judd Apathow Raunchy Comedy, Starring Regulars Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann (his Wife)

This Is 40 is one of Judd Apatow’s typically raunchy serio-comedies, which pretend to teach us “meaningful” and “existential” lessons about “real” life?

Long, excessive, and laced with foul language, This Is 40 has some good moments, but the material is sharply uneven, and the film overextends its welcome by at least half an hour. The running time is unnecessarily 134 minutes!

Five years after Hollywood’s reigning King of Comedy, writer-director Apatow, introduced us to Pete and Debbie in “Knocked-Up,” one of his better efforts, Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann reprise their roles as a husband and wife, both approaching a milestone meltdown, going through mid-life crisis.

The draggy tale unfolds as one couple’s three-week navigation of sex and romance, career triumphs and financial hardships, aging parents and maturing children.

After years of marriage, Pete lives in a house dominated by females: wife Debbie and their two daughters, eight-year-old Charlotte (Iris Apatow) and 13-year-old Sadie (Maude Apatow). As he struggles to keep his record label, Unfiltered Records, afloat, he and Debbie must figure out how to revitalize their sex life, and enjoy their time together.

The movie aims to offer an unfiltered, comedic look inside the life of an ordinary American marriage, but what emerges is an irritatingly repetitious portrait of marriage and parenthood. Almost every interaction between Debbie and Pete turns into an argument and fight, resulting in a narrative that is based on a series of confrontations.

Soon, it becomes clear that Debbie and Pete are unhappy in every aspect of their lives, not just with the lack of libido in their marriage; their discontents is also manifest in their attitide toward themselves, including Debbie’s small and sogging breasts, and towards others, including their parents.

With the exception of Paul Rudd, who’s extremely likeable even in poorly scripted scenes, most elements in the film are second-rate. This is particularly the case of the charmless lead performance by Leslie Mann, Apatow’s real-life wife. Mann, a mediocre actress who’s not particularly attractive, gives a performance that grates on your nerves, due to her mannerisms, and tiny, unappealing voice. Her is a screen couple that you don not root for them to be together.

Handsome, with beautiful blue eyes and an inviting smile, Rudd is doing a variation of a role he has played one too many times, the shy, insecure, boyish male (which a lot of women find appealing). Too bad that Apatow does not write richer parts for this talented actor.

The comedy is peppered with brief appearances by great actors, such as Albert Brooks and Melissa McCarty. You wish their parts wer bigger as they are far more entertaining than the endlessly whining central couple.

This is Apatow’s fourth directorial outing, and in my humble view, one of his weakest. We are never convinced that Debbie and Pete had ever been happy together (This may be a function of the lack of chemsitry between the two leads). Furthermore, their quirks and idiosyncracies are not that interesting or funny–Debbie is a secret smoker, and Pete is obsessive about cupcakes and cheesburgers.

“This Is 40” is a personal film: Apatow has cast not only his wife, but also his two daughters in lead roles, but for no apparent reason.

Apatow has always been a sharper observer and writer than a deft craftsman or savvy director. Aiming for realism, sort of slice-of-life film, This Is 40 is both narratively and technically shapeless.

Ultimately, the frank, raunchy lingo, from the first scene on, and candid marital situations, can compensate only up to a point for the film’s deficiencies.

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