Foul-mouthed without being particularly funny, involved without being compelling, Judd Apatow’s “This Is 40” wants to be deeper than it really is. Which is an Apatowian trademark.
Apatow aspires to be a contemporary Frank Capra – albeit one with fart and blowjob jokes. But his movies are always about the same thing: the quest for an idealized nuclear family, despite the various pressures of contemporary society.
In some ways, Apatow represents a very conservative viewpoint, one traditional enough to warm the cockles of Bill O’Reilly’s heart, if O’Reilly had a heart (and if there weren’t all of those dick jokes). Apatow’s spirit, thankfully, is much more vulgar and anarchic than the lifestyle his central characters always seem to crave in the world that has come to be known as Apatown.
In the case of this film, it’s the ravages of age – or the perceived ravages – that threaten the marriage of Pete and Debbie (Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann). The couple had been introduced in Apatow’s “Knocked Up,” as a similarly self-delusional couple, who resent the amount of pretending they do in their marriage to keep the other one happy.
In “Knocked Up,” both Pete and Debbie had to figure out what they valued in their relationship, in the background of the Seth Rogen-Katherine Heigl main story. Now, in “This Is 40,” it’s a few years later, Pete and Debbie are still together and they still drive each other a little nuts. That, Apatow seems to be saying, is the constant state of being married: You get to spend your time with someone you love, even though part of the time they make you crazy. Pretty accurate, I’d say.
Now the two of them are both about to celebrate their 40th birthdays. But while Pete embraces the distraction the birthday offers (because it takes his mind off the fact that his business is about to collapse), Debbie refuses even to concede that this is her 40th. She’s stuck at – and sticking to – 38.
And that, it seems, is the sum of the plot that Apatow came up with.
This review continues on my website.