Judd Apatow has built his career on making people laugh and laugh hard, for the most part. There are lots of comedies that come out every year and most of them go for the cheap laughs and let their actors flex their improv chops. While that’s all well and good, I think that we the audience may deserve something a bit more. I think Judd Apatow strives to do that with all of his films, some to greater success than others, but ultimately he’s trying to give us just a bit more. What is this thing, you might ask and I might say, heart. He’s giving the film a heart and a soul to go along with his dick and fart jokes. This Is 40 bears that heart and soul we have come to expect and doesn’t so much perfect it as much as reinvigorates what was lost in Funny People.
This Is 40 is, if nothing else, the funniest movie I have seen this year. I laughed hard and often and then repeated that process again and again. There isn’t much drama in this dramedy as much as there are relatable situations handled by very unique and fairly well written characters. All that to say, I just really liked the characters and who they are. Two people turning 40 and facing, what they view as the rest of their lives and the steep decline to the finish line. To sum it all up and put a bow on it, they don’t handle it well but had they handled it well we wouldn’t have a story worth telling, would we.
As with most Apatow films, this one has quite a few characters but this time it seems that most of them have been fleshed out a bit more. Functioning as quite the who’s who ensemble cast and pulling it off nicely. Not just a bunch of semi high profile well knowns doing their friend a favor and saying a few lines, which seemed to be the case in some of Apatow’s previous efforts, but actually playing a character that mattered and playing that character well and with some conviction. For example, John Lithgow playing Debbie’s absent father Oliver or Albert Brooks playing Pete’s eternal Jewish mooch father Larry, to name a few. Both have fairly small roles but both are very important to our main characters whether that be in forming who they are or helping them become what they will be.
As for our main characters, Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann), they just really kick the emotional shit out of each other relentlessly for two hours. If there were one problem in the film it would be the endless bickering between the two. It’s the source of most of the laughs in the film but I honestly began to feel annoyed with their relationship dynamic by the end of the film. Now, that said this is the reason this film is so funny and so fun to watch. These are two people that have forgotten what it’s like to be happy with one another, with life and have lost the ability to communicate effectively. They essentially hate to hear the other breathe and the things that come out of their mouths because of it, which then made me cry in painful laughter. So, if the film could be broken down into a scene it would go: sex in the shower, he announces he has taken viagra, she becomes offended because she thinks that he needs viagra to achieve the erection necessary to pursue sex with her, he announces that isn’t the case and thought it would be a great birthday present for her, she disagrees and says that she would prefer the medium sized squishy one and so on and so on.
In the past I think Apatow tried to throw every single idea he had into a single film and the film would suffer a bit for it. Most notably in Funny People when that film could have had 30 minutes removed and been a great film but instead he left every idea he had in there and ended up with a mediocre overlong film. That isn’t the case here. This is 40 is a little chubby here and there but nothing that would raise serious red flags. Apatow has clearly made an effort to tell a focused thoughtful story from beginning to end and I applaud him for it as this may be the biggest reason this film works so well.
All in all This is 40 is a roaringly hilarious lowbrow comedy that hits all the right notes at the right time. While there are segments here and there that grated on my nerves and seemed a bit unnecessary, they were ultimately outweighed by all the things the film did well. I feel we need comedies like this to help us remember that comedies can be funny and make you think about things, whatever they may be. Most the time it seems that we are just watching another film that’s trying to squeeze out cheap laughs and the story suffers for it, if there is any story at all in the first place. So, I would like to take this moment and thank Judd Apatow for making another hilarious comedy with a heart and a story.
I give it a 4 out of 5
By Brandon Bray