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With: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Maude Apatow, Iris Apatow, Jason Segel, Annie Mumolo, Robert Smigel, Megan Fox, Charlyne Yi, Albert Brooks, John Lithgow, Melissa McCarthy, Tatum O'Neal, Graham Parker, Billie Joe Armstrong, Ryan Adams
Written by: Judd Apatow
Directed by: Judd Apatow
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content, crude humor, pervasive language and some drug material
Running Time: 134
Date: 19/12/2012

This Is 40 (2012)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Mid-Strife Crisis

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Rather than making a sequel to his successful Knocked Up, writer/director Judd Apatow instead went sideways and made a new movie, This Is 40, about two of its supporting characters, the married couple Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) as they plunge into middle age together.

Pete owns a small record label whose financial future hinges on the success of a new record by Graham Parker (who appears as himself). But, of course, when did a Graham Parker record ever sell like hotcakes? So Pete avoids telling Debbie about their financial troubles. Meanwhile, Debbie is trying to figure out her relationship, trying to avoid turning 40, and trying to reconnect with her estranged father (John Lithgow).

In other plot threads, Pete's money-grubbing father (Albert Brooks) is putting a strain on their finances, Debbie's shop is not doing well, and one of the employees (either Megan Fox or Charlyne Yi) is embezzling. Pete and Debbie's daughters are growing up and becoming difficult, and trouble is brewing with an angry mom (Melissa McCarthy) at school. There are many more actors appearing in small roles, including Jason Segel, Robert Smigel and others, and it's clear that Apatow did not have the heart to cut any of them.

This Is 40 runs about 2 hours and 15 minutes. Comedy usually relies on tight structures -- or at least controlled chaos within a tight structure -- so that the rhythm of the jokes plays well. Anything more sprawling must rely on very strong characters with dramatic edges. The characters here are not that strong, and mostly silly.

I suspect that Apatow likes combining humor and "life" and believes that the excessive length of his movies allows for moments of life to come in between the jokes. Unfortunately, none of it feels much life life, even if some of the comedy is improvised. It just feels like professional comedy, or sometimes, amateur comedy.

For a time, it seemed that Apatow was ready to take the throne of American film comedy, usurping the now-irrelevant Farrelly brothers. But he needs to either be funny in a shorter time, or stick with his increasingly sprawling running times and be more profound.

Note: On the 2013 DVD and Blu-ray release the film has an "unrated" option, which is -- believe it -- four minutes longer!

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