It’s hard to believe that it was 2005 when Judd Apatow burst on to the scene with “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.” In these seven short years, he has gone from ‘that one guy who wrote “Freaks and Geeks” to a name that is ubiquitous in comedy. In fact, there is an entire sub-genre of Apatow-ian (pretty sure that’s a word) comedies that are usually a well-balanced mix of vulgar humor and real heart, but no one does it better than the originator.
Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) are approaching their 40th birthdays, although Debbie swears it is her 38th. Pete owns a fledgling record label that specializes in aged songwriters. Debbie is the proprietor of a struggling boutique store that is losing money because of internal theft. As they deal with turning 40, they find themselves struggling to handle their growing daughters, their crazy fathers and many other obstacles to a healthy relationship.
It seems strange to label “This is 40” as a spin-off from Knocked Up because it has a completely different feel, enforced by the lack of the previous movie’s stars. Honestly, after 20 minutes of Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann, you only kind of miss Seth Rogen and have completely forgotten that Katherine Heigl ever made a movie as good as “Knocked Up.” Marketing the movie as a loose sequel to a critically and commercially loved comedy is tough business, but the stars deliver and certainly elevate something that in less capable hands could be a direct-to-DVD cash-grab.
Paul Rudd may get top billing, but it is Mrs. Apatow, Leslie Mann, who is the real star here. She is charming, cute and hilarious: sometimes at the same time. She manages to bring out all the frustration that a wife would have when dealing with a man-child husband (I think she may have personal experience). While Rudd will probably never be anything other than Paul Rudd in a movie, I’m not complaining.
Albert Brooks and John Lithgow are both great as Pete and Debbie’s fathers, respectively. Each one of them brings a different set of problems and each of them has obviously scarred their child in a way that affects their relationship. The rest of the movie is filled with a mix of Apatow’s usual players, his children and Megan Fox who is surprisingly decent.
While the movie may be 20 minutes too long (as are most of his movies), it is riotously funny. I need to see this movie again just to hear all the bits I missed under the ear-piercing laughter in the theater.