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Gavin Grades The Movies

This is 40

Writer/Director Judd Apatow has secured himself a reputation as Hollywood's comedy powerhouse and I'm not sure why.  His films do well enough with critics and at the box office and I guess that's all that matters.  Most of his films are very funny and directed well for a comedy but they all have the same problem; they're always a half hour too long.  This is 40 is no exception and it's a new low in his career.

You might remember his movie Knocked Up, that came out in 2007 and was about Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigel having a baby together.  It's really cute, very funny and (of course) a half hour too long.  Well, in that film there was a couple played by Paul Rudd and Apatow's real wife, Leslie Mann.  They were only in a few scenes but they are some of the best and most real scenes in the movie.  Apatow decided to make a whole film about them and never address the relationships they had with 99% of the cast in Knocked Up, so it's more of a spin-off than a sequel.

Rudd and Mann's characters both turn 40-years-old in the same week and it;s about how both of them react to it very different.  It's an age Apatow's tackled before in the 40-Year-Old Virgin, which is still his best work.  Middle Age used to be the bread and butter of Hollywood in their melodramatic box office gold.  Films like Grand Canyon, Parenthood or American Beauty don't seem to exist anymore.  So I really appreciate that Apatow is tapping that well again and mining deep into his real life to come up with a story that speaks to people going through that.  The major problem with This is 40 is that there's no story to be found.

This is 40 operates as a series of skits more than a connected plot.  It's nothing but scene-after-scene that makes you laugh but doesn't go anywhere.  It was almost as if Apatow and his wife kept a diary over the last year and wrote down every single funny thought or thing that happened to them and then tried to tie it all up in a bow and present it to the public as a movie.  It doesn't work.    I understand that some lovers of this movie will say, "That's what makes it so real; not everything has a conclusion or resolution."  Agreed, but movies do.  Just because something happens in your life and it's really funny, doesn't mean that it should be put in a film.

One of the top pet peeves of mine is nepotism.  I hate watching people walk into a family business because I feel like they earn nothing and they often feel that they've earned everything.  Nepotism in Hollywood is even worse to me and made grosser by people like Will Smith who not only force their horribly untalented kids down our throats but even buy them movies to showcase their awfulness.  However, the best part of This is 40 is Apatow's real daughters, Maude and Iris.  They are hilarious and earnest and interact together in a way that feels real and warm.  He really knew how to get the most out of them in every single scene, which is ironic since Leslie Mann, who remember is their real mother, comes across kinda icy.

Perhaps the reason why they're so enjoyable is because they're the only enjoyable characters.  Seeing Rudd and Mann in Knocked Up was fine because they didn't complain a lot and weren't in it very long.  134 minutes of two attractive, rich, white people is not only boring but it's off putting.  You get to a point where you want these two to stop their freaking whining and worry and look around at how great their lives really are.  Even veterans like Albert Brooks (Finding Nemo, Drive) and John Lithgow (Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Campaign) don't help the film.  

So if you're going to see This is 40 no matter what I say and are even prepared for the Apatow trademark extra half hour of nonsense, be prepared that it's worse than that.  What starts off as a really funny movie with loads of promise, ends as an unfunny ship with no one at the wheel.  It's wandering, meandering and eventually crashes into a reef.  If it were possible to buy half tickets to watch half movies, this would be the best thing out.
This is 40  (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: C

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People : Albert BrooksGavin GradeIrisJohn LithgowJudd ApatowKatherine HeigelLeslie MannMaudePaul RuddSeth RogenWill Smith


12/22/2012 4:19PM
This is 40
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