This is 40

December 21, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Albert Brooks
Directed by: Judd Apatow (“Knocked Up,” ‘Funny People”)
Written by: Judd Apatow (“Knocked Up,” “Funny People”)

Were you aware that director Judd Apatow’s last film, “Funny People,” has a runtime of 2 hours and 26 minutes? Yes, the crude-yet-thoughtful comedy clocks in at just 20 minutes shorter than the epic fantasy adventure “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” and that disparity drops to 13 minutes if you count the extended edition available on DVD. It’s the most glaring weakness built into the DNA of nearly every project Apatow’s name is attached to: an intelligent script and top-notch comedic performances stretched too thin by pacing that sometimes devolves from storytelling to simply hanging out with the characters. While Apatow has arguably earned such indulgences after re-shaping modern cinematic comedy as a hit-making producer and director, it’s tough to keep the laughs going for that long without testing the patience of the audience.

Though not as egregious an offender, “This is 40” still manages to stick around at least half an hour too long. As a quasi-sequel to 2007’s “Knocked Up,” the film features Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann reprising their roles as Pete and Debbie, first introduced as the extended family of Seth Rogen’s and Katherine Heigl’s lead characters. The lived-in feel of their relationship fleshed out the edges of that film in ways that often overshadowed the chief plot line. Five years later, Pete and Debbie are front and center and on the cusp of their 40th birthdays. Well Pete is, anyway. Debbie has been weaving an elaborate web of lies about her age culminating in her claim to be turning 38 instead. Pete and Debbie are also dealing with the trials that plague similar couples across the nation: financial problems, unpredictable children, and the boring familiarity that inevitably rears its head in long-term relationships.

“This is 40” has little to speak of in they way of plot, with the only real threads that stretch from beginning to end being the very loose planning and execution of the birthday party and the dire financial struggles of Pete’s boomer-skewing record label. Newly-minted Apatow players Lena Dunham and Chris O’Dowd turn up to deliver laughs as Pete’s co-workers, with O’Dowd rewarded later in the film by sharing an extended (though highly unnecessary) exchange with Apatow all-star Jason Segel. A couple of comedic heavyweights check in along the way: Albert Brooks drops in as Pete’s dad, an old man with a new young family, and Melissa McCarthy stops the show as a mother defending her son with an hilariously insane rant (curiously absent, though, are Rogen and Heigl). Despite all the talent on hand, though, the film belongs to Rudd and Mann. The honesty of their relationship is never in doubt, and the familiarity each have with Apatow’s voice help turn already funny lines into quotable and hilarious one-liners.

Yeah, the film overstays its welcome, but so what? Like the rest of Apatow’s characters, these people are fun to hang around with.

Leslie Mann – This is 40

December 21, 2012 by  
Filed under Interviews

In “This is 40,” Leslie Mann reprises her role as Debbie from 2007’s “Knocked Up.” In the film, Debbie’s marriage to Paul Rudd’s Pete is tested by financial troubles, moody teenage children, and the resentful rut all long-term relationships seem to fall into. I spoke with Leslie about her marriage to the film’s director Judd Apatow, how improvisation is handled on the set, and how she’s coping with her daughters’ budding acting careers.

Your husband, Judd Apatow, wrote and directed the film. How much of what is onscreen is drawn from your actual marriage?

Well, I think that it’s emotionally truthful. I feel like it’s emotionally truthful to a lot of people, struggling with marriage and raising kids and just how hectic life is. Those are pretty universal feelings and ideas. But it’s not really, you know, it is fictional. It’s not plucked right out of our lives.

Everyone seems to assume that Judd’s films are filled with improvisation. Is that the case, or do you stick pretty close to the script?

We do stick close to the script. You know, Judd is a really generous director and very supportive. He started as a stand-up comic. So sometimes when we’re shooting we’ll roll and he doesn’t cut. He lets it roll until it rolls out so we’ll shoot for sometimes – like 10 minutes straight. And sometimes he will yell out lines as we’re rolling, so he’ll kind of rewrite while we’re shooting the scene. And then the actors will shoot a bunch of takes like that. We’ll have like a “free take” where we kind of do whatever we want. But it usually winds up being what’s on the page. Pretty close to it.

Your daughters, Maude and Iris, play your daughters for the third time [after “Knocked Up” and “Funny People”] onscreen.

Yeah.

Do they have any aspirations to maybe play someone else’s daughters someday?

(Laughs) Well…I keep saying that I want them to stay in school and just, you know, have a normal childhood because there’s plenty of time for them to be working when they grow up. But then I talked to Tom Cruise last night—Judd was doing Jimmy Fallon, and Tom Cruise was there. And Tom Cruise kind of disagreed with me and thought that I should let them become actors if they want to. If they’re good and they’re interested in it [he said] I should let them do that. And my daughter Maude was there, who does want to act, and she’s like, “See Mom? I don’t need to stay in school! Tom Cruise said that I should go out and become an actress!” So now I’m not sure what I’m gonna to do.