A dreadfully galling film, This Is 40 serves as a reminder of all that’s wrong with comedy. Directed and written by Judd Apatow, this is a spin-off sequel to Knocked Up. It features characters from the 2007 flick, only they’ve advanced in age and annoyance. They lazily confront what Apatow believes are the issues of being 40 with all the decorum of spoiled children, which is apparently supposed to be funny.
Apatow jams his script with immeasurable pop culture references, stuffs his backgrounds and foregrounds with product placements and seems to be working without an editor. This comedy is so congested with interminable riffling that it’s hard to fathom, functioning more like a register of rejected footage than a complete motion picture.
Paul Rudd stars as Pete and Leslie Mann stars as Debbie, a couple veering into their 40s with all the grace of a three-legged dog. This common facet of life would be amusing were it not for the movie’s haphazard veering from subject to subject. Debbie owns a store and believes that one her employees has taken $12,000, for instance, but she treats the subject with removed interest despite the family’s money troubles.
And Pete owns a struggling record label. The troubles put a strain on Pete and Debbie’s marriage, so they decide to cut back a little while looking for solutions (it makes little sense that they take a vacation after cancelling the Wi-Fi, but I digress). To make matters worse, Debbie receives unexpected news that she’s pregnant. Daddy issues also complicate things.
This Is 40 is packed with stars and guest appearances. John Lithgow and Albert Brooks play the fathers of Debbie and Pete, respectively, while Megan Fox and Charlyne Yi are workers at Debbie’s store. Chris O’Dowd and Lena Dunham chew scenery and waste their talents as Pete’s employees, while Melissa McCarthy is also squandered as the parent of a kid at school.
Apatow’s dialogue sways from repugnant to atrocious, depending on who’s delivering it. Mann’s impractical vulgarity, a problem in Knocked Up, is back in play. It spreads to others, with Rudd’s character unremarkably cussing out everyone he comes across. A particularly crude and misogynistic sequence comes when he confronts McCarthy’s character; that he manages to slide in more product allusions further divulges how horrible the writing really is.
The pointless dropping of F-bombs and other profanities may feel natural in films about prison, the mob or the Catholic Church, but in this tale of suburban strife it feels forced. Whether it’s Debbie bullying an adolescent or Pete cursing at a doctor whose ethnicity seems to bother him, This Is 40 will get giggles from fans of hateful, predictable humour.
It gets worse when Apatow forces a round bundle of mawkish gibberish into the square peg that is this dreadful movie. He laces scenes with insipid acoustic music and draws out the incongruous waterworks to melt together with Mann’s 14-year-old girl “best ____ ever” sincerity and Rudd’s sleepwalking efforts at 90’s cool. And This Is 40 really scrapes the bottom of the barrel when it tries to redeem itself from the unpleasantness it has spread.
From one senseless scene to the next, This Is 40 offers little of redeeming value. All the wise old women, artificial inanities, daddy issues, and Apple shills in the world can’t commandeer this drivel from its dull, vexingly loquacious self. And when Albert Brooks can’t save this over-two-hour party, you know you’re in real trouble.