The story is essentially that Pete (Rudd) and Debby (Mann) are turning 40. At this point in their lives they are marred with several mid-life crisis scenarios, their kids are disobedient, they’re in debt, and their marriage is collapsing. This is 40 doesn’t offer up enough of a motivating plot to keep us interested, essentially giving us a series of tableaus about the plight of turning forty. Pete’s record label is falling apart due to debt (related to his lack of clients), while Debbie struggles with issues of her own, and together the two of them need to come to terms with many family issues, eventually involving both of their fathers. The premise is promising enough, as many people can associate with the complications of suburban life, family, and the process of getting older. However, the lack of a motivating plot takes far too much of a toll here, especially since this movie runs for over two hours.
There are some laughs here, but they mostly come from a handful of the many supporting characters. Despite Mann and Rudd’s chemistry and strong performances, their characters are far too bitter and their house is so full of anger and resentment we almost want them to break up. Luckily, the great supporting stars lift the comedic element of the film. Jason Segal is funny as Debby’s personal trainer, Tim Bagley as her gynecologist, Chris O’Dowd as Pete’s friend and employee, and Melissa McCarthy as a hilarious mom at the kids’ school are all funny.
There’s little more to say about This is 40, because despite its humorous moments, it just doesn’t satisfy. While the melancholic melodrama of an aging married couple may just be a little realistic its gets to some people, the characters are not likeable enough for us to emotionally invest in their relationship (or even potential life outside of one). The lack of driving story works to the advantage of the many supporting characters, some delivering delightful little performances, there just isn’t enough here to support a full length two-hour feature that people will truly care about.
I consider myself a fan of Judd Apatow’s work, and so I’m left feeling disappointed by This is 40, especially how it marketed itself as a “sort-of sequel” to the much funnier Knocked Up. Overall, there are funny scenes here, but there are equally as many painful ones, and the mix-and-match of comedy and drama is not managed well here like it is in Oscar-worthy films like Little Miss Sunshine or The Kids Are Alright, ultimately leading the film down a long road to nowhere.