Reviewed by: Daniel Thompson
reaching 40th birthday
lying about your age
marriages that are in major trouble
strained family relationships
parents fighting in front of their children
use of medical marijuana
concealing pregnancy from husband
|Featuring:||Jason Segel … Jason
Megan Fox … Desi
Paul Rudd … Pete
Leslie Mann … Debbie
John Lithgow … Oliver
Pete and Debbie are both turning 40 this week. While that’s just a number, to them it’s much more. Like many others who turn 40, Pete and Debbie are starting to take stock in what they have and where they are. They’ve got two daughters, a beautiful house, a Lexus and a BMW. They also have Debbie’s failing boutique and Pete’s fledgling record company. Combine that with parents who either need money or are nonexistent in their lives, and Pete and Debbie find themselves with more stress than they can handle. This is the conceit behind “This Is 40”, the latest slice-of-life dramedy from writer/director Judd Apatow. The film, like almost all of Apatow’s previous work, presents a hybrid of deep, emotional life lessons and raucous, vulgar content.
Unlike Apatow films “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up”, “This Is 40” doesn’t have a traditional plot that includes an antagonist or central crisis. It is simply a two-plus hour look at the ins and outs of Pete and Debbie’s relationship, for better or worse. This results in a film that drastically transitions from comedy to drama and back again, with the goal of mirroring real life.
Pete and Debbie let their resentment at some individual choices manifest itself in anger towards their spouse and their children. They must find ways to cope with their insecurities while relying on their partner to help instead of hinder. These deep, emotional issues lay the foundation for a film that’s less of a crowd pleaser than some have anticipated. It’s a movie that is more likely to make some viewers uncomfortable, than it will be to make them stand up and cheer.
The acting is fine across the board. Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann are excellent as the titular characters. They play off each other as though they’ve been married for years. Maude and Iris Apatow (real life daughters of Judd Apatow and wife Leslie Mann) are excellent as the daughters of the family. Never once do they feel as though they’re acting. Actors Jason Segel, Robert Smigel, Albert Brooks, and John Lithgow all have supporting roles.
The movie, as a whole, does tend to meander from scene to scene, in no real hurry to get anywhere. This is a common characteristic of many Apatow films, all of which clock in at over 2 hours, which is quite substantial for any film that’s labeled “comedy”.
Also on display in this “comedy” is a gratuitous amount of inappropriate content. Like his previous efforts, Apatow films every scene with an “anything goes” mentality. This means most every scene involves improvisational acting, which contains a hefty amount of profanity as well as sexual dialogue. On top of that, there are two different instances of female nudity, as well as plenty of other scenes involving children cursing, as well as graphic sexual dialogue.
Mr. Apatow clearly writes and directs movies without an eye or ear for moral content problems, but he also places shockingly positive messages in most of his films. His previous work has produced strong statements in favor of abstinence and pro-life causes. Apatow’s message about marriage, at its core, is similarly uplifting. Is Pete and Debbie’s marriage perfect? Not even close. Do they run from their problems and divorce immediately? Nope. Instead, they continue to try (sometimes failing) and communicate with each other in order to make their union work. “This Is 40” also showcases how little material possessions matter. Whether it is intentional or not can be debated, but the overarching theme of the film is that nothing material has made Pete and Debbie happy.
Violence: Minor / Profanity: Extreme—f-words (over 100), “Oh J*sus Chr*st,” “Jesus Christ” (2), “Jesus” (3), “G*d-d*mn” (7), OMG (7), “Oh G*d” (4), “My God” (2), “God” (6), “For G*d’s sakes,” “Swear to God,” numerous vulgar sexual words, s-words (20), and many more / Sex/Nudity: Extreme
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.