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Friday, December 21, 2012

Sean Kelly

My Thoughts on This is 40

This is 40It was less than a decade ago when Judd Apatow established himself as a comedy king.  After producing mostly TV series during the 1990s and early 2000s, Apatow hit a one-two punch by producing Anchorman in 2004 and directing The 40 Year Old Virgin in 2005, both of which would go on to be big hits.  He truly hit it big with his second directorial effort Knocked-Up in 2007 and it seemed for a time that he could do no wrong.

Well, his latest directorial effect This is 40 shows that Apatow has somewhat lost focus on what made his films hits in the first place.  The film brings back Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann as, their characters from Knocked Up, Pete and Debbie.  The film chronicles how both characters cope with turning 40.  In other words, Judd Apatow has made Midlife Crisis: The Movie, which is exactly as funny as it sounds (i.e. not really funny at all).

Each film that Apatow has directed since The 40 Year Old Virgin have progressively gotten both more dramatic and more autobiographical.  Since three quarters of Pete and Debbie’s family are made up of Apatow’s real wife and kids, it is obvious that the film was meant an excuse for Apatow to express his own feelings about middle age on screen.  The problem is, that people come to see one of Judd Apatow’s films to laugh and have a good time, not to watch a family drama about the insecurities one has when they turn 40. 

I liked Leslie Mann in small doses a decade ago when she was in mostly supporting roles, however when she is front and centre like this, I find her more pathetic than funny.  Debbie is probably the most unlikeable character of the film, which doesn’t help when you are the lead.  Paul Rudd fares a little better, but I find that he works best when he plays straight-man to a buffoon like Seth Rogen (who was really missed) or Jason Segal (who DOES appear in the film, reprising his character from Knocked Up, but it is more an extended cameo).  However, I do have to say that the film does feature a somewhat decent performance by Albert Brooks as Pete’s father, with John Lithgow also appearing as Debbie’s father (which is kind of funny when you realize that, a decade ago, Leslie Mann played Lithgow’s trophy wife in the film Orange County).

If the, mostly dramatic, midlife crisis plot wasn’t enough to dampen my enjoyment of the film, Apatow throws a lot of low-brow and/or insulting “humour” in the film.  There’s surprisingly quite a bit of casual anti-Semitism in the film, which I suppose is Apatow’s way of questioning his own status as a Jew.  On top of that, there’s a scene involving making fun of an Indian doctor’s accent, as well as a scene making fun of drug addiction by having a pill popper slur her words like she is possessed.  These “jokes” are not my type of humour and it’s almost sickening that Apatow resorted to them.

My response to This is 40 is made sadder by the fact that there were individual scenes that had me laughing and enjoying myself.  It’s almost as if Apatow was taunting me with the film I wanted this to be.  Also, one of the highlights of the film unexpectedly turned out to be Megan Fox, who has a supporting role in the film and almost made me forget how much I despise her.  There is also a scene-stealing turn by Melissa McCarthy, who has the funniest moment of the film…shown as an outtake in the closing credits.

I’m not going to completely write Judd Apatow off after my experience with This is 40.  I think he is still a gifted comedy producer (looking forward to next year’s Anchorman sequel), however I think Apatow should stop making these highly personal films that contain more drama than comedy.  There is a place for those types of films, but a comedy is not one of them.

4 | DISAPPOINTED

Sean Kelly

About Sean Kelly -

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described ├╝ber-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).