‘This is 40’ merges truth, awkwardness and comedy

Movie Review
By: By Frank Miller Special to The News Messenger
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“This Is 40”

Directed by Judd Apatow             

Starring: Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann

Rating: Four out of five stars

Any long-term couple knows that arguing over minutia is part of the deal you sign up for. Those quarrels can either make you stronger as you learn from your mistakes or they can pile up and undermine the life you’re trying to build.

“This Is 40,” the new film from writer/director Judd Apatow, is a comedic dramatization of the pitfalls that couples face when turning the big “4-oh.”

Or, more specifically, the problems that affluent middle-aged white people have when their small businesses don’t make as much money or when they try to take away iPads from their children.

So maybe not all of the scenarios are completely relatable as the main characters, Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann), don’t ever see the forest for the trees.

Last seen in Apatow’s “Knocked Up,” of which this film is a spin-off, Pete and Debbie genuinely love each other and are committed to married life. But they both have bad habits that drive each other insane.

Pete lies about the viability of his indie record label while secretly lending money to his mooching dad. Debbie micro-manages every aspect of their lives without ever giving up an ounce of control.

While the film could have become a tiresome drag through the lives of a dysfunctional couple, Apatow never lets the proceedings get too dire. The film is also buoyed by winning performances from the ever-charming Rudd and Mann.

Like most of Apatow’s movies, “This Is 40” probably should have been called “This Is 40 Minutes Too Long.” There are times when you feel the film’s length but it is quick to snap back with a hilarious gag that makes it worth the wait.

While not his best film, “This Is 40” shows that Apatow is still king at finding truth and comedy in uncomfortable scenarios. The movie infers that, while life’s problems don’t get easier, reaching 40 doesn’t mean you always have to act your age.


Frank Miller is a Sacramento writer.