Sunday, December 30, 2012

Review // This Is 40

It was maybe an hour and 45 minutes into This Is 40 when I thought, "Oh my god, this movie is never going to end." And I don't mean that in a funny "I'm exaggerating for effect; obviously, the movie will end" kind of way, either. I mean that I briefly considered the possibility that this purgatory of a movie would literally never end. I thought the boring lives of Debbie and (hold on a second while I look up his name) Pete had somehow turned into The Truman Show and would just keep going and I was bound to sit there forever, watching their boring, boring lives play out.

Okay, listen. That sounds pretty harsh. I didn't hate the movie. In fact, I found it pleasantly surprising for a while. I was paying attention and sitting up straight in my seat and by god, I was even laughing. The film felt on track to being perfectly adequate. It's hard to hate a movie like that. Really, it's hard to feel anything for a movie like that.

But then it just kept going and going, introducing new threads right up until the time that some beautiful person finally told Judd Apatow to end the fucking movie already, and so it just does.

There's no restraint. The movie gets bored with itself and decides to spice things up by casually trying on and discarding new plot lines like a 16-year-old girl picking an outfit for the big party at Todd's house tonight. These are the kind of plot lines that would normally get their own movie, like "a woman tries to reconnect with her biological but estranged father who has his own family," or "a man in financial straits needs to stop lending money to his lazy father who is taking advantage of him."

So the movie meanders absentmindedly from one story to the next, never really making progress anywhere, and I kept checking to see how much time had passed since I last checked. (Usually about eight minutes.)

There's too much going on, and the movie never feels enthusiastic about any of it. There's a fine premise in "Debbie and Pete come to terms with turning 40" for a comedy. It's loose enough that Apatow has plenty of room to sit back and tell jokes and get his characters in all sorts of hijinks. But when you start layering in all the other threads, like Pete's label is going out of business, and one of Debbie's employees is stealing money, and all the stuff with their parents, it chokes all the comedic potential right out of the movie.

The movie's biggest problem is Apatow's ambitious but misguided desire to make a meaningful comedy that
tries to be sad, heartfelt and funny all at once.

Think back to Superbad, inarguably Apatow's best film to date. What was the premise there? "Two friends go to a party." That's it. Apatow adds depth where it makes sense, like the fear of separation as the two deal with being accepted to different colleges, but he leaves it pretty open otherwise so he can just cram in whatever dumb, hilarious scenes he can.

It's not all bad, though. Jason Segel and Chris O'Dowd have a couple really funny scenes together addressing such hot topics as, "What is the difference between a gay man's mustache and a straight man's mustache?" and, "What the fuck is going on?"

Paul Rudd as Pete and Leslie Mann as Debbie both do a fine job, but their delivery sometimes feels jarringly unnatural, even for an Apatow comedy. The scene in the trailers where they talk about how Pete is actually "such a dick" is a good example.

The movie's biggest problem is Apatow's ambitious but misguided desire to make a meaningful comedy that tries to be sad, heartfelt and funny all at once. Funny People was good, but not nearly as funny as it should've been, and the same goes for This Is 40. Apatow throws as many attempts as he can muster at the wall to have some kind of emotional resonance that sticks, and none of them do. They just bloat an already bloated movie.

So This Is 40 ends up being not that funny, not that fun, and is so long that, for a fleeting moment, I actually thought it would never end. It has a few good laughs and is inoffensive enough that you could do worse, but I wouldn't recommend it if you have anything better to do. Seriously, anything at all.

This Is 40 / 2hr 13min / Released December 21, 2012