I can honestly say I am not looking forward to sets of daily vitamins, screaming dwarves I’ll call my children and routine prostate exams. Nor did Judd Apatow in his 20s, and now that it’s here he has channeled all his feelings on middle age in the odyssey “This is 40.”
In 2007 Apatow directed his best film “Knocked Up” in which, alongside the main characters, he introduced Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann), a near middle-aged couple who showed what life after pregnancy leads to: the star-studded and glamorous life of marriage. Now they had their own movie that focused entirely on that subplot during an equally long period of time.
The movie depicted their marriage in all the ways we’re told will happen to us when we’re younger but guaranteed won’t. They dressed themselves modernly, surrounded themselves with gadgets, applied more makeup, retreated to a bathroom to play Scrabble with Xiao, exercised unnecessarily, all while being screamed at by pre-teens. Lather, rinse, repeat. Such is life, such was the movie. There were more dramatic moments, too, such as relationship and financial crises, but it was all a part of the same bubble.
All this was wrapped up with Apatow’s trademark humor and runtime, which was this movie’s greatest undoing. Instead of having plenty of moments with real conversations, the characters spent too much time engaged in banter with slight grins on their faces, making everything seem more like an aimless joke than an interaction that led deeper down the rabbit hole. Yes, the movie was plenty funny and should please those expecting that brand of humor, but it led nowhere and extended the movie far beyond what it was capable of.
Granted, as the movie progressed, it becomes more serious, like the failure of Pete’s record label, but it was all just thrown into this jambalaya of mini-stories that nothing ever took over as the primary story. The title should have been more direct like “This is financial meltdown,” “This is marriage crisis” or “This is onset diabetes.”
In “This is 40” Apatow tried to create THE movie on middle-age because he had proved successful with that take in other movies. But the aspect of being 40 is too broad to cover in a movie (other than in subtext). Hell, it’s too broad to cover in life itself, it seems. Life is too short to ignore the big ideas and focus on a bunch of smaller ones.