Judd Apatow returns to the world of Knocked Up with another look at the couple of Pete and Debbie. But is this semi-sequel worth your time? Jeffrey Harris checks in with his review of This is 40.
Directed By: Judd Apatow Written By: Judd Apatow Runtime: 135 minutes MPAA Rating: Rated R
Pete - Paul Rudd Debbie - Leslie Mann Jason - Jason Segel Desi - Megan Fox Jodi - Charlene Yi Catherine - Melissa McCarthy Sadie - Maude Apatow Charlotte - Iris Apatow Oliver - John Lithgow Larry - Albert Brooks Ronnie - Chris O’Dowd Barry - Rob Smigel
This is 40 is a revisiting of the husband and wife characters from writer/director Judd Apatow’s 2007 movie, Knocked Up, Pete (Rudd) and Debbie (Apatow’s real life wife Mann). Debbie was the sister of Alison (Katherine Heigl), and her husband Pete became fast friends with Ben (Seth Rogen). Pete and Debbie were the parents of two girls Sadie and Charlotte (the real life children of Apatow and Mann, Maude and Iris Apatow). They had quite a bit of problems between Pete doing a lot of activities without Debbie that he kept secret from her and their constant passive aggressive fighting. Ultimately the two decided to stay together and work things out at the end.
In This is 40 Apatow goes back to Pete and Debbie as Debbie turns 40 and Pete is nearly there as well. The couple are stuck in a rut and duel midlife crisis. Debbie has anxiety over turning 40 and lies about her age and sneaks cigarettes when her family is looking the other way. Her store employers Jodi (Yi returning from Knocked Up) and Desi (Fox). Pete’s boutique music label is struggling to stay afloat as they are trying to release a new album for Graham Parker that looks like it is going to be an inevitable bust. Not to mention the family’s finances are going down the toilet which Pete also hides from Debbie. Between their constant fighting and disagreements over everything from dieting to how the type of doctors they should bring their daughters too, the marriage of Pete and Debbie looks like it is on the verge of an atomic meltdown.
The movie is your basic Judd Apatow movie. I think what Apatow does well is his movies is mixing comedy with some real profound human drama and pain reflected here through Pete and Debbie dealing with turning 40. The actors have good chemistry and some of the scenes and interplay such as Pete and Debbie’s feud with another parent at their kid’s school in Catherine (McCarthy) are really funny. The Spider-Man gag from Knocked Up gets switched for Lost here, a gimmick which stops just short of wearing out its novelty. Maybe it will for audiences, we’ll see.
I think where the movie suffers though is a result of its laborious near two hour and fifteen minute running time. The movie is just too long for its own good. Even Knocked Up managed to pack everything into a shorter story. The movie has a lot of cute and funny setup scenes that don’t really have much of a payoff by the end. As a result, you have a fairly bloated movie loaded with scenes and subplots that really do not serve the final product very well. The movie really needed about twenty minutes or more cut.
I think the other issue is that I’m not sure why we should root for Pete and Debbie staying together. In the movie, their relationship becomes so toxic and divisive that divorce really seemed to the be best option. While I’m sure many marriages deal with similar problems presented and poked at in this story, the resolution is not wholly believable. There is a nice little scene where Pete and Debbie go on short, romantic getaway but other than that it’s hard to believe the couple really is in love with each other. I would’ve bought into more the idea that they stay together for the sake of their still growing children, or deciding for an amicable separation.
Also the movie begs the question, where are Alison and Ben from Knocked Up? It was rather odd that Debbie invites her estranged father Oliver (Lithgow) to her husband’s birthday party as well as her hot employee but her sister and likely brother-in-law are nowhere to be found? Did things with Ben and Alison not work out? I would really like to know. Other than Pete and Debbie, the only other characters from Knocked Up who show up are the peripheral characters of Jodi and Jason (Jason Segel). I’m not really sure if a sequel to Knocked Up based around Pete and Debbie was a story that was really necessary at all.
The 411: This is 40 is a solid relationship comedy about a couple in crisis that suffers from an overly long runtime and unnecessary padding. I think Pete and Debbie don't really translate well as the main characters for a story such as this, and the resolution was achieved far too simply and unbelievably. I think Judd Apatow fans will enjoy this movie, and there are some genuinely funny and humorous moments but it could've been done in a length that feels less like The Lord of the Rings.