Married life is a bitch.
The H-Bomb: Quasi-hip married couple Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann aka Mrs. Judd Apatow), two supporting characters from Knocked Up (which I haven’t seen), now get their own movie set during the turbulent week in which they both turn 40 (at least Pete is, Debbie’s year of birth tends to fluctuate). As if hitting the big 4-0 isn’t traumatic enough, they also have to deal with all these pesky everyday issues going on around them, like problems with their two daughters (played by the real life offspring of Mann and Apatow), problems with their jobs (his record label is failing, her clothing store is being ripped off by one of her employees), problems with their fathers (his is a money grubbing mooch, hers is an aloof doctor who’s been MIA most of her life), and problems with their marriage in general (sex life, money, constant bickering). Problems, problems, and more problems… with some dick ‘n fart jokes thrown in for good measure.
Before I go any farther, I should confess that I am not exactly a fan of Judd Apatow. I think the only other film of his that I’ve seen was The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and that one didn’t exactly have me rolling in the aisles whilst pissing myself. For some reason or another, the man’s movies just don’t appeal to me at all, and sufficed to say, I was not really looking forward to his latest, This is 40. But, sometimes going into a movie with little-to-no expectations can actually be a good thing, as it does leave room to be pleasantly surprised, and, much to my delight, that’s exactly what happened here. Despite my typical anti-Apatow leanings, I did manage to enjoy this one… to an extent.
This is the second flick of Apatow’s to feature the number 40 in the title, though as we find out in the very first scene, the main characters here are most definitely not virgins. The rude and crude (and very R-rated) humor that has been a staple of his past work is very much present and runs through the entire picture, though it’s not really what defines this film. Rather, it’s the trials and tribulations of getting older that this couple has to contend with that drive it. Be it Pete dealing with the possibility of having to sell the family house if his record company goes under, or Debbie dealing with some young punk-ass who’s been cyber-bullying her older daughter (this leads to the two funniest scenes in the movie), it’s the very real problems that they’re confronted with that make these people relatable and that draw us into their story. This is more of a dramedy than a comedy, and the humor is there simply to keep it from turning into Blue Valentine.
What also goes a long way in getting us to really invest in the adventures Pete and Debbie are the terrific lead performances by Rudd and Mann. Yeah, they may be more youthful looking and attractive than your average 40-year-olds (personal trainers, gotta love em), but their flawless chemistry made them a very believable couple. As it happens, this past October I re-watched Halloween 6 for the first time in years, which featured Rudd when he was very green. Both he and the movie were pure and utter ass, so seeing him here made me realize and appreciate how far he’s come as an actor from that rather modest (and embarrassing) beginning. As Pete, he somehow pulls off being both goofy and charismatic at the same time. That is not something a lot of actors can do, so good on him.
Mann, as the half of the couple who is much more self-conscious and insecure about getting older, shines like she never has before. Her hubby has written her a very juicy part, and she takes full advantage, finding the humor in Debbie’s vulnerabilities, and pulling it off perfectly. Whether she’s constantly insisting that she’s turning 38, or disparaging Tom Petty, she is just hysterical. I do question some of her nude scenes, however. They seemed to be there for no other reason than Apatow wanting to show off how hot his wife is. “Yeah guys, that’s what I get to tap every night! How jealous are you?”
Overall, Rudd and Mann are indeed fantastic, but they’re not the only actors worth mentioning. Albert Brooks, as Pete’s money leeching father, is an absolute howl and a definite scene stealer. Loved the bit where he tells Pete that a pizza was the reason he was born… you’ll have to see it to get it. John Lithgow, as Debbie’s absentee dad, doesn’t get as much to chew on comedically as Brooks, as his story thread is played much more straight, but he’s stellar as always. Megan Fox is surprisingly good as Debbie’s dress shop employee who is suspected of stealing money from the business. It’s a smallish part, but her self-deprecating performance is quite funny, and that she is easy on the eyes certainly doesn’t hurt.
If there’s one thing Apatow has a talent for, it’s casting his pictures with first rate actors and making good use of them. That, however, leads me to something he doesn’t seem to have any talent for, editing his movies. This is 40 clocks in at two hours and fifteen minutes, and I felt every second of it. During the last twenty minutes, it really turned into the movie that wouldn’t end. It is way overlong, by at least a half hour, and it truly does damage the film. All of Apatow’s movies have bloated running times, and that leads me to believe that he is one of those filmmakers who just can’t bring himself to cut anything from his movies. There is a lot of fat on this bitch, like a pointless sequence where the couple absconds to Laguna Beach, that should have been left on the editing room floor. Sometimes less is more, Judd.
Another issue I had is the constant arguing and making up that happens throughout the film. I understand that this plays into the realism of married life that Apatow was trying to get across, but having it happen over and over again over the course of two hours and fifteen minutes, it just became overbearing, not to mention redundant. Like the younger daughter yells out at one point, “I’m tired of everyone fighting all the time!” Amen, sister, a-fucking-men.
If Apatow had the will to cut his film down to a more reasonable length, which would have in turn eliminated much of the repetitiveness, then This is 40 would have been a solid 4-star movie. Sadly, because of his unwillingness to cut anything, he merely has a 3-star movie with a 4-star movie lurking somewhere within. And that is a shame, as it is genuinely funny, smart, and, in parts, moving. It’s something that anyone who has ever been married (or in a serious relationship) can relate to, as well as anyone who is pushing the dreaded 4-0 (I could make a crack about our esteemed editor here, but sound judgment is getting the better of me). If it weren’t so damn overlong, I would tell you to go see it, but as it is now, This is 40 is purely a rental.