Dir: Judd Apatow, 2013
Knocked Up’s Pete and Debbie are both turning 40 and begin to enter mid-life crisis mode. Their marriage starts to suffer as they try to deal with all the difficulties that come with couples their age.
Often do we look at charming or intriguing supporting characters in film and long to see more. But on the rare occasion where a spin-off feature is actually delivered, expectations are almost always flattened upon leaving the theatre. The likes of US Marshalls, X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Get Him to the Greek all explored lovable characters but none retained the same flair and allure as their predecessors. Yet with This Is 40, Judd Apatow manages to maintain a very strong foothold on the triumph of 2007’s Knocked Up.
We pick up five years down the road from where we left Pete and Debbie – still in a rut where the security of their marriage depends on the day of the week. Knocked Up took pregnancy as a scenario and painted a contemporary and honest affair while tingeing it with dashes of hilarity, with great success. But where Knocked Up’s limited potential gives out, This Is 40’s long-term captivation continues with its lead characters. Apatow saddles our (un)happy couple with modern-day economic crises, dysfunctional parents and run-of-the-mill sexual inadequacies that thwart the 40-year-olds in their efforts to reinvent their marriage.
Apatow clearly has marriage in his candid crosshairs and as per usual, never proposes an easy fix. The obstacles warrant sympathy for both characters but the film doesn’t pull punches by avoiding situations without blame. Oppositely, the humour is placed accordingly but sometimes misses its mark when Apatow wanders into tasteless or overly-juvenile territory, which will tend to happen when one walks the comedic tightrope that Judd Apatow lives on. However these traits are balanced by the perfect chemistry between Mann and Rudd, not to mention Mann and Apatow’s real-life children who, apart from seemingly being spoon-fed comedy, glisten as the duo’s wearisome offspring.
Regrettably there are no appearances from Seth Rogen or Katherine Heigl, made even worse by Knocked Up alumni Jason Segel and Charlyne Yi who are notably unremarkable. Fortunately the fresh blood introduced in the forms of Megan Fox, Chris O’ Dowd and Albert Brooks are ideal and Melissa McCarthy makes a riotous cameo that comes off like rage-fuelled Bridesmaids.
Sure, the running time (as usual) drags on a bit and the humour behind Judd Apatow’s Lost obsession has ironically gone missing but This Is 40 carries the hefty appeal of a teen rom-com fast-forwarded 25 years, which is rare enough to remain thoroughly engaging.