Over the last decade, writer and director Judd Apatow has taken the throne of modern comedy and has continuously kept his reign. As a writer and director, Judd Apatow has an unconventional and creative approach to his comedy by blending comedic raunchiness with an appropriate amount of sincerity. It’s this exact approach that makes his films stand out from the more run-of-the-mill comedic sludge that has been flooding the multiplexes in recent years. Apatow has progressively “matured” from the raunchiness to a more James L. Brooks approach to his storytelling. His latest film, This Is 40, is his most personal film yet as it explores the concept of aging and family in a tragically funny way. Apatow tones down the raunchiness to deliver his most personal effort yet, it’s his weakest effort.
As all of the trailers and advertisements suggest, This Is 40 is the sort-of-sequel to 2007’s Knocked Up. Apatow brings back married couple Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) to explore their marriage five years later as they are about to reach the mid-point in their lives. The film begins on the morning of Debbie’s 40th birthday, or in Debbie’s own world, her 38th birthday. Although Pete seems to be content with turning 40, Debbie isn’t too keen with the idea and has a mini-meltdown. She starts to become concerned about their own way of living, which leads to small altercations about their own health and diet. Their witnesses are their young daughters Sadie and Charlotte (Maude Apatow and Iris Apatow) who go about their own young lives like typical siblings by constantly annoying one another. The arguments are consistently stringed together in a comedic fashion. As the narrative moves along, however, their arguments and concerns become much more serious.
At first glance, Pete and Debbie seem to be doing just fine despite having their own set of concerns and arguments like the typical married couple that have been married for years. Debbie is now the owner of a fashion boutique business and Pete runs his own independent record company. At second glance, however, Pete and Debbie actually aren’t doing very well at all. The truth is that turning 40 years old is not even the beginning of their problems. Debbie discovers that an employee has embezzled $12,000 dollars from her business and Pete’s record label is on the brink of a financial crisis due to a changing industry. The record company’s loss of profit signifies to Pete that his family’s financial life is about to take a serious hit. Pete and Debbie try desperately to balance parenthood, romance, careers, and their own parents in a sometimes funny and sometimes not-so-funny way.
The narrative of the film starts off in the right direction in the first act by exploring Pete and Debbie’s life five years after the end of Knocked Up. The opening argument after Debbie discovers Pete had used Viagra to “spice up” their morning shower sex is hilarious. More often than not, you can’t help but chuckle at their arguments and Debbie’s mini-breakdown over turning 40. I’m sure all of this seems relevant especially to married couples who have also been married for years, dealing with the same issues with their own offspring, and are reaching a similar age in their lives. It comes to no surprise that this film is a semi-autobiography of Judd Apatow’s own life. The director is over 40 so he has already experienced the crisis that is reaching life’s mid-point. It also helps to cast his own wife and children in major roles to explore more personal themes from his own life. Although Apatow hasn’t stated directly as to what elements from the film are from his personal life and what’s not, he takes from his own real life experiences and hopes to help connect audiences with some of those themes.
As much of a fan I am of his work, This Is 40 isn’t Judd Apatow’s strongest film. The reason the film is his weakest film isn’t because the laughs aren’t as consistent as his previous films, it’s because it seemed as if editors didn’t spend too much time doing their job. It’s the first time I realized that Apatow might be a bit self-indulgent with the material he captures on camera. It’s because of this that may have lead the film to be in need of a re-cut. There are shots and even entire sequences that could’ve been left on the cutting room floor that wouldn’t have altered the film in any significant way. It’s a film that doesn’t need to be long-winded to drive home the themes that he wants the audience to connect with. There are instances where I felt that certain shots were strung together in a not-so-cohesive way that ended up making the scenes feel awkward and out of place. It’s argued that all of Apatow’s directorial efforts are way too long. Before This Is 40, I was actually one of the few to defend the running times of his films. This is the first time that I realized that one of his films desperately needed to be edited more effectively.
This Is 40 isn’t a failure because of the talent on screen. I must admit, I was never a fan of Leslie Mann before this film. I always thought she tried way too hard to be funny. However, in this particular film, Leslie Mann is actually genuinely funny and has even impressed with her dramatic talents. As always, Paul Rudd is a comedic force of nature. It’s exciting to see him in more dramatic roles. It proves that he is a versatile actor. Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann carry the majority of the film on their shoulders. They’re on-screen chemistry is spot on. Even when I saw them as Pete and Debbie in Knocked Up, I got a sense that they are actually a married couple who have been together for years. In each scene they’re in together, they bring a good amount of comedic and dramatic energy to it. The actress who surprised me the most was Judd Apatow’s real life daughter Maude Apatow, who portrays Sadie in the film. It certainly helps that she is a teenager herself because she portrays Sadie in such a realistic way as emotional, frustrated, and a bit rebellious in her own teen nature. As in all of Judd Apatow‘s films, the supporting cast is always fantastic. The supporting cast includes Jason Segel (who reprises his role from Knocked Up), Chris O’Dowd, Albert Brooks, John Lithgow, Lena Dunham, Melissa McCarthy, Megan Fox, Annie Mumolo, and Charlene Yi.
Video (1080p HD Transfer): The 1080p high-definition transfer is detailed The imagery is well balanced and sharp. The colors expressed are clarified and bold.
Audio (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1): As you can imagine, this is a dialogue heavy film. The audio is high quality but isn’t complex. The audio levels are crisp.
The special features provided on the Blu-ray of This Is 40 are presented in high-definition:
- Theatrical and Unrated Versions of the Film
- Feature Commentary with Writer/Director Judd Apatow
- The Making of This Is 40
- This Is Albert Brooks (At Work) Documentary
- Graham Parker & The Rumour: Long Emotional Ride Documentary
- Music Performances of Graham Parker, Graham Parker & The Rumour, and Ryan Adams
- 14 Deleted Scenes
- 5 Extended & Alternate Scenes
- Gag Reel (Two Parts)
- Biking with Barry
- Triumph the Insult Comic Dog
- Kids on the Loose 3
- Bodies by Jason Commercial
- Fresh Air with Terry Gross (WHYY, Inc.)
- My Scenes Feature (Bookmark and Access Your Favorite Scenes)
- DVD Copy
- Digital Copy
- Ultraviolet Digital Copy
Judd Apatow likes to pack on the special features on all of the special editions of his films. The special features on the Blu-ray do not disappoint in the least. There is a two-part making-of documentary that provides a look into the production of the film. It showcases some outtakes, actors talking about their time on set, and Judd Apatow directing his own family. The recorded performances of Graham Parker, Graham Parker and the Rumour, and Ryan Adams is a fantastic addition for fans of their music. The Graham Parker & The Rumour: Long Emotional Ride documentary explores their reunion. The two part gag reel offered is absolutely hilarious and one of the best features.
Don’t get me wrong, just because I think This Is 40 is Judd Apatow’s weakest directorial effort, it’s not a dismal mess. There are elements of the film that work absolute perfectly. The comedy/drama serves as a slice of life of two characters that are struggling through their life as they reach their mid-point. Pete and Debbie each have their own ways of dealing with their issues but ultimately what keeps them together is their love for one another. It’s this message that Apatow drives home about marriage, relationships, and family. I hope Judd Apatow continues his progression into dramatic territory because he clearly has the talent to do so. As mentioned earlier, Apatow has taken the throne of modern comedy by blending comedic raunchiness with an appropriate amount of sincerity. Let’s all hope that when his next film arrives in theaters, we’ll say, “all hail the king.”
Click here to purchase This Is 40 on Blu-ray/DVD/Ultraviolet Digital Copy.
The Blu-ray was released on March 22nd, 2013.