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This is 40 / *** (R)

Posted Saturday, December 22, 2012, at 10:09 PM

Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd return as Debbie and Pete in "This is 40", the "sort of sequel" to "Knocked Up".
Universal Pictures presents a film written and directed by Judd Apatow. Running time: 134 min. Rated R (for sexual content, crude humor, pervasive language, and some drug material).

"This is 40" is a far from perfect movie, and in many ways that is just perfect. I just ran the 40 gauntlet myself, which means I just turned 41. It's hard not to break down and just say, "How did this happen?" In many ways, that is the attitude of the movie. It gives into those inhibitions that people normally carry around but can no longer, because they realize half their life has slipped away while they were busy making other plans. Thank you very much, John Lennon. Most of the time this approach works for this film; sometimes it doesn't.

The movie takes a look at the lives of Pete and Debbie, whom some of you might remember from Judd Apatow's previous film "Knocked Up". They were the couple played by the same actors here, Paul Rudd and Apatow's real life wife, Leslie Mann. Apatow's real life kids also play their two daughters. It's a family affair. Did they wonder why their "uncle" Paul was pretending to be daddy? They seem like bright kids. They probably had a good idea of what they were getting into.

Anyway, Pete and Debbie are both turning 40 in the same week. It's a week when their individual lives and their marriage goes through mid-life crises. His independent record label business is failing. She is in denial about turning 40. One of her employees has stolen $12,000 from her clothing store. His father insists on borrowing money. Her father isn't present but visits for the first time in seven years. Their oldest daughter is in high school. That's probably all that needs to be said about her drama. Although, it should also be noted that she's been watching the entire "Lost" television series over the course of a week. Their youngest daughter is desperately trying to connect to anyone, but especially to her older sister, who is done with her.

The movie doesn't exist on plot so much as it goes through the daily routines and incidents of the week of Pete and Debbie's birthdays. This non-traditional treatment works to represent the lives of parents and a modern couple who are ruled by jobs and trying to make the right decisions for their kids, often failing at both to some degree. There are no transitions from one situation to the next, which resembles the feeling of what it's really like to run a family while dealing with personal issues. There's no time to really absorb anything. This might be off-putting to some audience members who are more used to plots that tie all their actions together.

Sex is much on the minds of Pete and Debbie. Pete is exploring ways to make it work better, while Debbie is feeling he is not attracted to her. They're both on different wavelengths, as spouses often are in the intimacy department. My own wife had a bit of a problem with how insecure Debbie was about her appearance, because she felt Debbie looked much younger than forty. I have to agree with my wife; but as I understand it, women rarely see themselves accurately when it comes to their physical appearance. That doesn't mean that any woman doesn't want to seem as desirable as Megan Fox to all men. Interestingly enough, Debbie seemed perfectly comfortable with her husband's attitude toward having Fox's character around. She didn't seem to question his fidelity, which was a nice relief from the typical issues you see couples go through in the movies.

One problem I did have with the movie was the frankness with which the characters were willing to express their feelings toward complete strangers and certain family members. For a film that seems to be trying to replicate a realistic husband and wife relationship at the mid-life crisis stage, it didn't deal with these conflicts very realistically. It seemed to show us how many of us would like these types of confrontations to go. We'd all like to really give people a piece of our minds. We'd like to tell people off, but it doesn't happen with the frequency it does in this movie. If we all acted the way Pete and Debbie do when others ticked them off, we'd all spend a lot more time in jail and we'd have a lot less family gatherings. Maybe that's what we all need, but I feel these confrontations were contrived more for the funny dialogue they produced than to show us what it's really like to be forty. You should stick around for the Melissa McCarthy outtakes during the end credits, though; they're worth waiting a couple of extra minutes.

"This is 40" is not going to appeal to everyone, especially if you go into the movie expecting the laugh riot promised by the trailers. A screenwriter friend of mine said that it should be called "This is Facebook" because of its non-stop complaining. It does complain a lot about what it's like to be forty today. It also gets a great deal of it right. It is funny, but more in a chuckle to yourself type of way than a laugh out loud way. It's easy to tell that much of the film comes from a very personal place for Apatow and his family. Because of this, its much more serious than your typical comedy. It's also less predictable and a little more challenging than most movies out there. This is what it's like to be 40 in many ways, including the fact that it's not an entirely satisfying experience. It's also what you make of it, and that's the most important thing to know about life.

"This is 40" is currently playing at Galaxy Cinema in Sedalia.

Visit A Penny in the Well for an uncensored version of this review.

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Andrew is a professionally trained actor and stage director. He was a reporter for the daily newspaper The Marshall Democrat News. He has been critiquing film since Mr. Lucas released the first of his "Star Wars" prequels in 1999. His reviews can also be seen at his blog site.
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