“This Is 40”
Rating: 3 out of 4 stars
Run time: 134 minutes
Starring: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Albert Brooks and Megan Fox
Now playing at Wildhorse Metropolitan Stadium Cinemas.
There’s a time in every man and woman’s life when they don’t feel young anymore, but they still don’t consider themselves to be old. This is a time of introspection about past mistakes, the ever-shrinking window of the future and the unrelenting period of tedium and stress that is the present — “This Is 40.”
Nobody looks forward to his or her 40th birthday, but the realization that they’re over the hill has hit married couple Pete and Debbie (Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann) hard. Their daughters (Maude and Iris Apatow) are growing up much too fast and life in general just seems to be flying by their eyes.
Along with mounting financial problems and all the other unpleasantness of aging, their respective midlife crises are made worse by their inability just to get along with each other. Tired of feeling tired and unhappy with being unhappy, Debbie insists that she, her husband and their kids try a little harder to improve their home life, be closer and just have a better sense of well-being.
However, no matter how many resolutions people make to better themselves, life inevitably gets in the way.
It would be inaccurate to say that Pete and Debbie have come a long way since they were first introduced as the uncle- and aunt-to-be in “Knocked Up.” Honestly, Rudd and Mann haven’t lost a step as the pair who, in spite of deeply loving one another, just can’t stop bickering about every bit of minutiae in their lives, whether it’s the use of Viagra — and the inherent stupidity it takes to surprise your body-conscious wife by telling her you popped that little blue pill — or how much toilet time is appropriate for a grown man.
Of course, if he’s taking his iPad into the bathroom, he’s clearly got more than one thing on his mind.
Mann’s actual daughters really come into their own as 13-year-old Sadie, who’s been hit hard by the living hell that is puberty and insists on spreading the misery, and 8-year-old Charlotte, who wavers between naive kid and self-appointed peacekeeper of the family.
It’s a wonder these girls are so well-adjusted, albeit spoiled, considering Pete and Debbie’s issues with their own parents. John Lithgow is sparingly but effectively used as Debbie’s distant father, whom she’s barely seen since childhood, while Albert Brooks is wonderfully obnoxious as Pete’s dad, a jovial screw-up who treats his son like a guilt-burdened ATM.
We’ve all been forced to bail a family member out of a jam, but not many people have to learn from their pop that they almost were not born to be cajoled out of a few bucks.
If there’s one thing Judd Apatow knows how to do in his scripts, it’s creating memorably shocking one-liners, best employed within the parameters of an R rating. Given the many obscenities of his directorial debut, “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” it’s not his hardest R, but once some of these characters drop the pleasantries, look out.
Perhaps the best of the bunch in this particular feature is Melissa McCarthy’s unstoppable tirade as an angry mother of one of Sadie’s classmates (Ryan Lee). You don’t want to be stuck in that principal’s office. As a writer, Apatow easily can ratchet up the tension of the mundane and similarly relieve it with a few good laughs.
As a director, that job is a little trickier as he attempts to portion out both the humor and the insights. The man whose greatest successes are as a producer only gets behind the camera every few years, and his films as a director always go heavier dramatically. “Funny People” tipped the scales too much in that direction, but Apatow gets it right here with wife Mann and proxy Rudd, showing a couple that for all intents and purposes, should have the perfect marriage, if not for the little things like excessive cupcake consumption, secret smoking, two failing businesses ...
As usual, he refuses to edit himself and gives us a movie that’s considerably lengthier than it should be, but it’s also the most complete, the most authentic and the greatest indication that he’s grown as a filmmaker.
“This Is 40” shows us that even when you’re no spring chicken, life, love and everything else don’t have to come to a screeching halt, though if you look like Rudd and Mann, you don’t have to worry about much. And, if a name like Graham Parker and the Rumour means anything to you, you’re probably at a life stage where you’ll have a greater appreciation for everything going on here.
Andy Bockelman is a Craig resident, freelance writer and Denver Film Critics Society accredited film fanatic who occasionally reviews movies playing in Steamboat Springs.