Review: This Is 40

This Is 40

(MA15+) ****

Director: Judd Apatow.

Cast: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Albert Brooks, Maude Apatow, Iris Apatow, John Lithgow.

THE average life expectancy of Americans is 78, which makes 40 pretty much slap-bang in the middle of the good old-fashioned "mid-life crisis".

And that's what This Is 40 is all about - not in a "run off with your secretary or trainer and buy a convertible" kind of way, but more of a "are we happy?" and "I don't want to get old yet" kind of way.

It might be easy to dismiss Apatow's examination of mid-marriage malaise as yet another pointless "I don't know what I'm doing with my life" sob story from upper middle class America, like, say, Eat, Pray, Love, or another directionless rom-com about fools in love who can't suck it up and make tough decisions or do the right thing, like, say, The Five-Year Engagement. Thankfully, this is funny, engaging and easy to relate to.

A sort-of sequel to Knocked Up, This Is 40 shifts the focus on to Pete (Rudd) and Debbie (Mann), who are happily married with two kids aged 13 and eight (played by Apatow and Mann's real-life daughters Maude and Iris).

Debbie is in denial about turning 40 and wants to focus on being happy and living longer, while Pete is stressing about his struggling record label and his family's financial situation.

There's no over-arching story other than Pete and Debbie fighting and making up and fighting and making up. Subplots flitter in and out - one of Debbie's employees is stealing from her, Pete's latest release has flopped, Debbie's more into sex than Pete is, Pete is secretly giving money to his guilt-inducing father, Debbie is trying to patch things up with her estranged father, the oldest daughter is being bullied online. It all sounds like a bunch of potential plot synopses for a new sitcom, and there is a feeling that This Is 40 is less a film and more a heap of epidodes re-arranged and stretched out.

But it all combines to paint a picture of a relationship that's easy to relate too, with Pete and Debbie proving to be incredibly flawed yet totally likeable.

Mann and Rudd are excellent, showing deft comic timing and hitting the necessary emotional notes as well. In lesser hand this would be less enjoyable.

Apatow's ability to create well-rounded characters is evident yet again, but so is a propensity to go on a bit. This Is 40 is too long - luckily it's laugh rate is pretty high, but it's a rare comedy that needs to be two hours and 10 minutes, and this one doesn't.

But even when the film is rambling or going too far in the wrong direction, it's still funny, such as Melissa McCarthy's bit-part as an angry parent or Jason Segel and Chris O'Dowd's characters vying for the affections of Megan Fox's Desi. These offshoots add nothing much except plenty of laughs, so you can forgive the film it's digressions.

This Is 40 is funny and relatable enough to help overlook its length, its meandering story and its occasional crazy patches.

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