Monday, January 28, 2013

This is 40

Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann in Judd Apatow's This is 40
**1/2 out of ****

This is 40, is pretty much what I expected from Judd Apatow: Amusingly funny yet too long and unfocused to feel totally satisfying... or meaningful. Let me stress that the hilarity of his movies is always the draw for myself and others to see them. He makes comedies and he has a great sense of what's funny. The drawback to them is that he has a poor sense of what's realistic. His constant attempt at slice-of-life drama in his movies has varied results. There are parts I relate with and other parts I wonder if anyone could relate with.

This movie isn't the editorial mess that was his potential masterpiece, Funny People. It does have most of the same problems. There's a lot of clever comedians featured all over the film. Apatow has worked-in subplots for all of them and it takes our focus off the implied care we're supposed to have for the characters.

Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann (Apatow's wife) reprise their roles as a the bickering married couple from Knocked Up along with Apatow's children, Maude and Iris, playing their children. The movie is generally about the couple dealing with the fear of becoming old and the struggle to be good parents. 

This ensemble does a good job at playing a family. Rudd is still a witty smart-ass who angers Mann when he responds to her eccentric ideas for household reform with indifference. Maude bravely captures how annoyingly insecure and emotional teenagers can be. Iris is pretty funny at mocking how needlessly complicated all these older people are.

There is a subplot revolving around Paul Rudd's character in financial trouble through an independent record label he's been running and is trying to provide Graham Parker a comeback album. I was thinking along with disinterested characters Rudd is trying to turn on to this older Rock artist, "Who cares?"

One of the best running plot elements that deserved more attention, was when the parents confiscate their older daughter's iPad and then spy on her Facebook exchanges discovering that she is defending herself against the harassment of a boy from school, who they choose to threaten along with his mother, played by Melissa McCarthy. This feud should have played a bigger role in the film because it was too funny. 

Albert Brooks brings his hilariously dry presence as Paul Rudd's father who uses shameful guilt tactics to get money from his son. Jason Segal, who also reprises his role from Knocked Up, has little purpose in the story but has amazingly funny exchanges with Chris O'Dowd and Megan Fox near the end of the film.

Still, I wondered why, in spite of all the laughs this movie inspires, did I have to spend two and a half hours with these characters? Apatow's heart is in the right place but he really wastes time where he shouldn't and can't ever seem to find a way to wrap his film around a center...

Just go rent Parenthood.

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