I have a dream that, one of these days, Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up) is going to make a 100-minute comedy so tightly packed with great material that you’re not going to be able to breathe from the laughing. It will absolutely freaking kill.
Apatow’s latest, This Is 40, once again shows that he’s a genius at coming up with funny stuff for funny people to do, and pretty clueless when it comes to wrangling that stuff into a manageable shape. He spins off a larger tale from Knocked Up supporting characters Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann), a married couple heading into the week when both of them will turn 40. They’re dealing with the stuff so many couples deal with at this crossroads age: the drama of having adolescent kids, financial insecurities, sexual insecurities and wondering what part of your family baggage you’re bringing to your own relationships.
It is familiar domestic-comedy ground, but Apatow mines it for several brilliantly funny sequences, including Debbie’s tirade at a classmate of their daughter’s who has been insulting her on Facebook, and the subsequent session with the school principal and the boy’s mother (Melissa McCarthy). There’s really not a traditional plot arc, either—more of a wild roller coaster between moments of bliss and wondering whether everything is too screwed up to salvage.
That concept works somewhat in Apatow’s favor, because it’s hard to imagine what his editor does to earn a paycheck. His characters’ discursive tangents are often full of sharp one-liners, but there are times when the shaggy, unkempt pacing of This Is 40 makes you long for something more ruthlessly constructed. It’s easy to understand why Apatow adores his characters and the hilarious things they say. Imagine how amazing it could be if he had a better sense for how to shape all that into an actual movie.
THIS IS 40
Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Albert Brooks