Posted May 2, 2012 by Beth Webb - Events Editor in Films

This Is 40

Bringing the duller sub-narrative of 2007’s

Bringing the duller
sub-narrative of 2007’s quiet hit Knocked Up into the feature-length spotlight
seems a questionable premise for a movie for director Judd Apatatow.
Of the
original promiscuous-come-pregnant comedy, no one particularly sang the praises
of Katherine Heigl’s onscreen sister
Debbie (Apaatow’s wife Leslie Mann)
and her quarrelsome marriage to Paul
Pete. This Is 40’s weighty 134 minute running time doesn’t help but then
when has an Appatow feature not skimmed the two hour mark?

The story is simple; a married couple who walk an unsteady
line between love and contempt for each other are fast approaching their 40th
birthdays. Both work in financially trying professions and have two adorable
rug rats Sadie and Iris (mini Appatows Maude and Iris). Mann’s Debbie is a
self-conscious, persistent nagger and Rudd’s Pete a slow-off-the-mark dude
struggling to let go of his youth.

As the big day looms we take a look into the troubles and
woes of growing older. Pete’s unrivalled commitment to a failing record label
and needy father cause him to lie to Debbie about the family finances while she
struggles with her own dwindling business and a lack of self-esteem. Older
Appatow Sadie is brinking on adolescence (with her primary concern being to
finish Lost) and Iris misses the closeness with her sister.

The last concern seems the most genuine on account of it
being inevitable, the rest are mostly superficial. As you watch a taut, slender
Mann dancing to Nikki Minaj with her perfectly passable children or Rudd with
his nicely-kept midriff and full head of hair, the issues raised seem mostly
self-imposed; Debbie’s consistent nagging over miniscule problems and Pete’s
complete lack of drive. At no stage does Pete shrug, accept that he has a
family to provide for and join EMI. This is emphasised by some charming scenes
between Mann and her children, making her day-to-day issues seem irrelevant.

Laughs are consistent throughout, though mostly brought by
the supporting cast, Melissa McCarthy
putting her talent for improvisation to shining use as she spits insults at
Sadie’s headteacher and even Megan Fox
is likable as younger blood. Mann and Rudd’s presence is pleasing, although at
around the halfway mark a sort of formula sets in where one upsets the other
and they reconcile only to fall back on old traits moments later. It is however
refreshing to have a film based on people’s flaws, especially when they’re not
passed off as cute. On the contrary this is a couple that are tough to
empathise with.

For a lean couple of stars the plot is a bloated mass. A
good 45 minutes too long and with sub-narratives that could be chopped without
remorse, this could be a harsh result of Apatow’s self-indulgence. A scene
where Debbie freely touches Fox’s breasts resonates with a scene in Matthew Vaughn’s Kick-Ass which takes
place behind a large billboard of Vaughn’s wife Claudia Schiffer, satisfying gratification whilst boasting how hot
their spouses are.

This Is 40 is not
a terrible film but it could have been a lot more likeable. Characters are
inconsistent and irritating to the point that you’re not sure how you’re
supposed to feel about them and, while there are undeniable laughs, it does
make you wonder just what is the big fuss about turning 40?

Beth Webb - Events Editor

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