This is cosy – ★★★
Judd Apatow, the modern day “King of Comedy” (in literal terms, not 1983 Robert De Niro terms), has only directed four feature films but his reputation is really based on a half-century of IMDB producer credits that include associations with properties as varied as 1996’s Jim Carrey-starrer The Cable Guy right up to HBO’s current hot thing Lena Dunham’s “Girls”.
Following up his previous efforts The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Funny People comes an exploration of married life as you approach 40 years of age – imaginatively titled This is 40. Paul Rudd plays the lead role of Pete while Apatow’s real-life wife and daughters (Leslie Mann, Maude Apatow, Iris Apatow) play Pete’s wife (Debbie) and daughters (Sadie, Charlotte). If you think that it’s all very meta and clever, then consider the fact that lots of the characters already appeared on-screen in 2007’s Knocked Up.
Summarising the plot of the film is a little foolish as not a whole lot happens other than the premise of building toward Pete’s 40th birthday party while he and Debbie navigate through the typical financial and relationship worries that parents in their last 30s have to tackle. The hilarity of the fact they’re living in a big huge house while he struggles at a small unsuccessful record label and she runs a clothes shop that is losing thousands every month seems to be lost on everyone in the film (if not critics).Chris O’Dowd is as dodgily American as ever but of that HUGE supporting cast there are a few stand-outs. Melissa McCarthy will take the headlines, while Knocked Up and House alumni Charlyne Yi is as good as McCarthy but both pale in comparison to Pete’s hilarious Daddy-o played by Albert Brooks. His last role was 2011’s Drive and his only work in the pipeline is the reprisal of his voice part in 2016’s Finding Nemo 2, but his on-screen presence here is so familiar, hilarious and worthy of praise that you just wished he worked a little bit more.
This sense of familiarity and comfort is what makes This is 40 worthwhile. The plot is meandering and if you wanted to pick holes in an uneven script it would be oh so easy but at the film’s heart are a cast of characters that you can identify with who feel like they belong in great American sitcom. Pete and Debbie aren’t exactly Cliff and Clair Huxtable when it comes to teaching us some strong moral life lessons but you will enjoy spending time with their family, even if it reeeeeally does drag across the film’s 134 minute runtime.
But bottom line Apatow still knows how to make us laugh. The film has plenty of funny setups and laughs and the director’s decision to pair himself with one of Hollywood’s most malleable comedic actors in Paul Rudd is a wise move as Rudd has recently developed a knack of elevating substandard comedies like Our Idiot Brother, Dinner for Schmucks and Wanderlust from “unwatchable” to “grand”. This is 40 isn’t at that level of Rudd’s recent duds but it certainly won’t leave much of an impression five years down the line in the way its pseudo-predecessor Knocked Up did.
USA / Directed By: Judd Apatow / Written By: Judd Apatow / Starring: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Maude Apatow, Iris Apatow, Jason Segel, Chris O’Dowd, Megan Fox, Charlyne Yi, Melissa McCarthy, Albert Brooks, Annie Mumolo / 134min / Comedy / Release: 15 February 2013 (Ireland, UK), 21 December 2012 (USA, Canada)