Judd Apatow’s work has always had a serious streak to it. His films (and tv work) may often be rowdy and bawdy and occasionally in bad taste, but in the end he’s dealing with serious stuff: Relationships, growing up, parenting, middle age, men vs. women and such things. This is 40 may be his most serious, or “grown up”, movie to date. It’s plenty humorous, but in the end it’s just as much of a drama as a comedy. It’s kind of a cross between a Woody Allen movie and a 90′s sitcom, or maybe an 00’s sitcom.
This is 40 is far from a perfect film. For one things it’s far too long. Many scenes in the film go on long after they made their point while others just feel pointless and make you wonder why they didn’t end up on the cutting room floor. There’s no real plot to speak of and the movie seems to wander from one loosely connected scene to another, at least to begin with. The editing is often clumsy and the film doesn’t always flow very well. Add to that the fact that it seems to adhere to a very conservative and cliched view of the sexes, where the women only wanna “have fun” and listen to dance music while men only like to listen to “depressing” rock music and play with their gadgets while pretending to be on the toilet.
And yet, despite everything, This is 40 works. Kind of. It can only sort of be called a comedy but there are plenty of laughs to be had. Paul Rudd continues to prove he’s one of the best comedic actors in Hollywood, not to mention just a really good actor overall, and Albert Brooks bring yet another hilarious performance as his dad. The movie does have its share of groaners and juvenile humor but it does not totally overwhelm things, and sometimes even seems to have a point to it, besides just getting cheap laughs. You can see this as reflecting how these 40 year olds are refusing to grow up.
You can even say that all the sluggishness and messiness in the movie has kind of a point to it. Both in reflecting the messiness of being middle aged, and how much it can drag, but also in reflecting how messed up life can get. This is not a “plot” movie but a movie about real life, though it’s not exactly realistic. Apatow is dealing with serious stuff here and does have something to say, or is at least trying. His ambition must be lauded and eventually the movie becomes a tiny bit moving. These folks problems may not amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world, but they still have to deal with these problems. These are flawed and messed-up people, but aren’t we all?
It’s also worth noting that Megan Fox gives what is probably the first really good performance of her career. While her role here isn’t big or terribly juicy Apatow does give her something to do and she shows that she’s got some acting ability and is more than just a hot body (though her body is nicely shown here as well). The always reliable John Lithgow is also terrific as Leslie Mann’s dad, he seems to be having a comeback of sorts these days with memorable turns here and in The Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
Final verdict: This is 40 is a flawed, messy film. It’s too long, often drags, the humor is often juvenile and it offers an annoyingly old-fashioned view of the sexes. But it’s also sweet and often funny with (somewhat) likable characters and somehow gets to you. The messiness ends ups having a point of sorts and the movie is mostly pretty entertaining. If only Apatow had a stronger command of the medium and would learn a thing or two about pacing and flow.