Film review: This Is 40

PETE (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) have a beautiful home in LA, two businesses, and two daughters (Maude and Iris Apatow).

PETE (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) have a beautiful home in LA, two businesses, and two daughters (Maude and Iris Apatow).

This Is 40 (15)

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Director: Judd Apatow

Running time: 134 minutes

* *

The older daughter, by the way, appears to be the very last person on earth not to have seen the TV show Lost, but that’s not the only problem bubbling under the surface.

Paul’s record business is on the verge of bankruptcy and his latest signing, (the actual) Graham Parker, isn’t selling. Meanwhile, Debbie suspects one of her employees (Megan Fox) is stealing from her boutique. Above all, they both struggle with a marriage that is now a fractured, fractious thing. Sex and money are the main issues. Also Pete wants Debbie to look up his anus for hemorrhoids, which surely makes the prospect of sex even more distant.

The film perks up whenever we move away from Debbie and Pete to any of Apatow’s digressive supporting characters, even though at more than two hours, this is not a film in need of padding. Chris O’Dowd, Melissa McCarthy, Jason Segel and John Lithgow all provide some bright moments, although the funniest person in the film is 1970s British rocker Graham Parker, who is gracious about letting himself be portrayed as too gouty and grey to be repackaged for Gen Y.

The other wistful element is casting Albert Brooks as Rudd’s deadbeat dad, who relies on handouts from his son to fund his young second family. It reminded me that Brooks used to write and direct dry comedies like Lost In America and Modern Romance, which were a lot more shrewd about midlife neediness and self-absorption than This is 40, which just feels like a ticket to Apatow’s own midlife meltdown, starring his own wife and kids.

A comedy about bored and resentful people yoked together in marriage needs to say something new, but all Apatow wants to do is vent that women are nags who envy younger women’s breasts and lie about their age, while men are in a permanent state of arrested adolescence and break wind in bed. The lack of self-awareness is sometimes staggering; as Rudd and Mann emote dull arguments during five-star hotel minibreaks, you may wonder why no-one reminds them, or Apatow, that the average 40-year-old probably has much more to worry about than their lost youth.

Apatow disciples will know Debbie and Pete’s fraught relationship was first glimpsed in Apatow’s earlier, crudely hilarious Knocked Up, although you don’t need to have seen that film in order to follow what’s going on here. However, if you haven’t seen Knocked Up, you’d be better off renting that on DVD, and skipping This Is 40 altogether, because This Is No Fun. «

On general release from Thursday