THIS IS 40
DIRECTED BY Judd Apatow
STARS Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann
Leslie Mann, Paul Rudd and Melissa McCarthy in This Is 40 (Photo: Paramount)
In writer-director Judd Apatow's 2007 hit Knocked Up, Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann (aka Mrs. Judd Apatow) owned their roles as Pete and Debbie, the gently squabbling but lovable couple who provided support to the leads played by Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl. In This Is 40, billed as "the sort-of sequel to Knocked Up," the credits still state Pete and Debbie but the actors seem to be playing different characters — they appear to be playing the real-life Apatow clan. Rudd stars as an exaggerated Judd Apatow; Mann stars as an exaggerated Leslie Mann; and, as Pete and Debbie's kids Sadie and Charlotte, Maude Apatow and Iris Apatow star as ... well, you get the drift.
Basically an ego-tripping home movie, This Is 40 strips Pete and Debbie of all their charm and manages the near-impossible task of making warm, winning performers like Rudd and Mann obnoxious and off-putting. Presumably a look at the hardships endured by a couple faced with career stress, financial strains and familial strife (Albert Brooks and John Lithgow make welcome appearances as the dads of, respectively, Pete and Debbie), this caters almost exclusively to folks with the moneyed zip codes 90067, 90210 and 90077, as the picture succeeds in taking the term "first-world problems" to previously uncharted terrain. The film runs a punishing 135 minutes, and that length only exists so Apatow can include scenes of his real-life wife and daughters dancing to their favorite songs in the comfort of their home, or provide improv opportunities to members of his clique (can anybody explain Charlyne Yi's restaurant scene?).
At least when filmmakers used to indulge themselves, the results would be on the order of Federico Fellini's 8-1/2 or George Lucas' American Graffiti. These days, celluloid navel-gazing is more likely to be met with audience eye-rolling and shoulder-shrugging.