'This Is' about 40 minutes too long

Fort Worth Star-TelegramDecember 20, 2012 

Judd Apatow's last movie as a director was "Funny People," which attempted to plumb the psyche of a stand-up comedian with a terminal illness. He returns to the edgy rom-com territory of "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" and "Knocked Up" with "This Is 40," a good-natured and warm-hearted but only intermittently funny look at middle age domesticity.

"This Is 40" is actually a sequel of sorts to "Knocked Up" but instead of focusing on that film's main characters, played by Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl, Apatow follows their married friends Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann, Apatow's real-life wife). It's five years later and Pete and Debbie, both of whom have their 40th birthdays approaching, are in the midst of a mid-life crisis. The small indie record label Pete owns is struggling, Debbie's clothing store seems to be doing only marginally better (and one of the employees is a thief), and they've got two headstrong daughters to raise (played by Apatow's real-life daughters). The fire that once provided the heat to their marriage has been reduced to a flickering flame.

Unlike some of the previous films with which Apatow has been associated as either director or producer, there are no shocking or gross-out moments. No one's hairy chest is getting waxed ("The 40-Year-Old Virgin") and no bridesmaids relieve themselves in bathroom sinks ("Bridesmaids," of course). "This Is 40" plays out more like real life and while it's admirable that Apatow, who also wrote the script, hasn't shoehorned in outrageousness just for the sake of it, there's not enough here to justify the 134-minute running time.

It's good to see Apatow working with veteran actors like Albert Brooks (who plays Pete's financially distressed dad) and John Lithgow (Debbie's emotionally distanced dad), both of whom turn in strong performances.

There are some chuckle-worthy small moments, as when Pete and Debbie are arguing over Pete's use of a drug to enhance his sexual performance or when Pete is trying to figure out how to keep his record label alive. His wife and kids want him to move in a more LMFAO or Rihanna direction. Pete's not having it.

But there are few laugh-out-loud scenes. Yet maybe that's the point. That life isn't about the grand gesture but the little day-to-day details that keep us grounded and human.

Still, it seems as if Apatow could've been just slightly more succinct in making that point. At least there are no hobbits involved.

THIS IS 40

3 stars (out of 5)

Director: Judd Apatow

Cast: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann

Rated: R (sexual content, crude humor, pervasive strong language, some drug material)

Running time: 134 min.

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