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Monday, December 24, 2012

This is 40 Movie Review

As supporting characters in writer-director Judd Apatow's "Knocked Up", married parents Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) acted as both mentors and foils for the film's main characters. Five years (or so) later, they take the lead in "This is 40", a look at the realities of long-term commitment and the fear of growing old.

Like marriage (and Apatow films of late), "This is 40" starts exuberantly strong and slowly becomes hard work to get through. We rejoin Pete and Debbie as they both face their 40th birthdays (though Debbie adamantly insists she's 38). After 14 years of marriage, they're trying to keep their youthful spark alive while dealing with the realities of home life. Though there isn't a lot of mystery left, the impending doom of the big four-oh begins to add a new dimension to their marriage. In a great opening scene, Pete admits to using Viagra as a "present" to his wife. Instead of appreciating upgrade, Debbie panics about him "needing" a pill to be with her. Her anxieties about aging quickly boil up in a hilarious tirade: "I'm not ready to shop at Chico's!"

Keeping things interesting in their marriage is just a part of their homelife stresses. Adding to the tension are the hormonal outbursts of 13-year old Sadie (Maude Apatow) and her antagonistic relationship with younger sister, Charlotte (Iris Apatow). Apatow clearly mines material from his real-life marriage to Mann and their children for these scenes, which can be painfully funny and true-to-life. But the light moments quickly fade as he piles conflict upon conflict for our young family.

As it must, money becomes a huge issue, as both Pete's record company and Debbie's boutique begin to fail. Pete has invested in aging rockers like Graham Parker, hoping others will revere the old stuff as much as he does. They don't, and the couple are teetering on the brink of financial ruin. Neither Pete nor Debbie have good role models for dealing with all of this. Both of their fathers have started second families, with no indication that they've done any better with their second go-round than with their first. And while Debbie barely knows her absentee father (John Lithgow), Pete's father (Albert Brooks) is always around, looking for a handout. Only Graham Parker (playing himself) seems to be comfortable in his advancing age.

Though Apatow is brilliant at finding humor in pain, he also has a tendency towards the maudlin, which seems to increase with each film - as does the length. Clocking in at 2 hours 14 minutes, "This is 40" is an endurance test, with maybe 15 minutes of good, solid jokes peppered in with biting resentment, despair and sentimental clap-trap. Supporting players like Melissa McCarthy, Jason Segel and Chris O'Dowd barely help break the tension (though hang out for McCarthy's ad libs in the closing credits for some of the biggest laughs of the film). Overlong and overwrought, this marriage isn't for everyone.

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