Jimmy Dunne reviews this ‘kind of sequel’ to Knocked-Up.
DIRECTOR: Judd Apatow
STARRING: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann
Judd Apatow’s “sort-of-sequel to Knocked Up” sits in on couple Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie’s (Leslie Mann) marriage for one week, in which they both turn 40 years old. But business and parenthood have ground them down, and This Is 40 asks what they’re frantically trying to figure out themselves – should it really be this hard? I had to wonder myself at several points.
My main issue – and it’s a big one – is that this film isn’t very funny. Apatow has made his characters stock-suburbia, even casting his own wife and kids to capture a real family dynamic, but hasn’t gifted them with a script substantial enough to leave any impression. The subtle, improv-friendly style that’s so distinctly Apatow is all very well and good when filming James Franco as an invincible, idiotic stoner (Pineapple Express), or Steve Carrell and Michael Cera as awkward but adorable virgins (40 Year Old Virgin and Superbad), but it doesn’t yield results when he’s simply filming his family being a family. He needs well-written jokes, not Debbie pretending to be thirty-something to her gynaecologist or her teenage daughter screaming “I DON’T CARE ABOUT ANYTHING!!!” without any prompting. Good comedy banished those clichés a long time ago, and they’re not funny enough to be welcomed back.
Thankfully, the stellar cast of familiar faces that Apatow has employed for years manages to hold the film together, and their performances are blissfully redemptive; Chris O’Dowd (still unapologetically Irish in every film) and a surprisingly dickish Jason Segel share a hilariously competitive scene as they vie for Megan Fox’s attentions. Completely separate from the film’s existential themes of ennui, their two minute long ‘knob’ joke easily trumped the 2 hours of family drama that preceded it. I was left laughing at last, but wondering: what great comedy could have been made if Apatow had developed those characters, instead of the ones under his own roof?