Following on from 2009’s Funny People, director Judd Apatow has spent the last few years working as a producer on films such as Bridesmaids (2011) as well as TV shows like Lena Dunham’s Girls. He returned to the director’s chair in 2012 for This Is 40, a sort-of sequel to his successful 2007 rom-com Knocked Up. Taking the supporting characters Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann), This Is 40 doesn’t so much as mention main characters Ben (Seth Rogen) and Alison (Katherine Heigl) from the former. With such notable omissions, is it possible to satisfy fans of the first instalment, whilst also appealing to a new audience?
After years of marriage, Pete and Debbie’s relationship has become lacklustre and routine. With financial pressures weighing on their minds and the care of their two young daughters to contend with, all romance has been well and truly sucked out of their lives. As the couple prepare to turn 40, Debbie decides that the family needs to make some positive lifestyle changes. When the changes don’t quite go down as well as expected, life becomes increasingly more difficult and they soon begin to wonder why they got together in the first place.
Though the premise may not sound like a barrel of laughs, This is 40 is sufficiently funny to qualify as a comedy; not something the majority of mainstream Hollywood fare can legitimately claim. The leads are a well-suited comedy duo, with Mann’s uptight matriarch continuously played against Rudd’s laid back man-child, in a way that’s bitterly humorous yet sweet and endearing. Although more laughs could have been generated by increasing the screen time of certain roles over others, the supporting cast all perform well and it’s clear that each cast member was given plenty of room to improvise. In particular, there’s a hilarious standout performance from Melissa McCarthy (of Bridesmaids fame).
That said, Bridesmaids has spawned a host of inferior imitations hoping to cash in on its success and there are elements of this film which certainly attempt to channel the former. Like Bridesmaids, the explicit opening scene uses highly sexual content to open with a bang, but unfortunately This Is 40 misses the comedic mark in a totally transparent and cringe inducing way. However, these instances are few and far between, as the film gradually begins to operate on its own merit.
Also like Bridesmaids, the film sees its lead characters in tricky financial positions, but while we may hear about these problems it’s difficult to be drawn in when presented with huge houses, catered parties and no visible consequences. Warm and sweet with just enough substance and bite to ensure that it stays on the palatable side of superficial, This Is 40 makes for enjoyable viewing.