This Is 40 is ‘The sort of sequel to Knocked Up’ according to the tagline. And about time, right? … Yeah, well, this is one sequel people will be sorely disappointed by. Is it fair to call a film a comedy, when it only makes you laugh once every 30 minutes?
That’s what I’m trying to figure out with This Is 40. From the writer and director Judd Apatow and set a few years after the events of the genuinely funny Knocked Up, the (sort of) sequel by contrast is an 134 minute mid-life crisis that has about as much charm as a slug on a talk show. Okay, maybe that’s a little harsh, but honestly, Knocked Up, Anchorman and Bridesmaids are in a whole other league to this film.
You don’t need to have seen Knocked Up to watch This Is 40. They exist as two separate entities, with only a handful of characters from the first film making an appearance. In case you want the context though, Alison (Katherine Heigl) had a one night stand with Ben (Seth Rogen) in Knocked Up, wound up pregnant, and the pair waded their way through a cringe-worthy situation we’ve all either experienced or witnessed in every day life.
This Is 40 focuses this time on Alison’s sister Debbie (Leslie Mann) and her husband Pete (Paul Rudd). When Debbie turns 40 (excuse me, 38), the pair decide some changes need to be made for the continued welfare of their family. Only of course, with so many outside influences throwing curveballs, things don’t go quite how they expect. Fear of growing older and of change is an inevitability we can all relate to, and yet somehow the comedy falls on its face in This Is 40.
It’s hard to pinpoint where it all goes wrong for me. Lets begin with the editing: It might be an idea for Apatow and co to hire an editor who isn’t afraid to point out where tough cuts need to be made. There is seizing creative freedom, and then there’s abuse of that freedom, making your comedies up to 30 minutes too long. This Is 40 does exactly this, with no less than 14 scenes (yes I counted) which could have been cut without hesitation. They added absolutely nothing to the plot. We get it, you drive each other crazy! Yes, Megan Fox is attractive, and your friends and family are a little kooky and dysfunctional. Move on to a scene that pulls the story along please.
You’re not supposed to roll your eyes every couple of scenes. The film was so long that it took me a while to remember who the side characters introduced near the beginning were supposed to be when they returned near the end. When you spend more time checking the time and judging Debbie and Pete’s ridiculously lax parenting style, instead of enjoying the last half of the film, you know it’s gone wrong. Seriously, I wanted to put a sock in their teenage daughter Sadie’s (Maude Apatow) mouth every time she screamed profanities at her spineless parents, which is a shame because her character was cute in Knocked Up.
And the frustrating thing is, I usually love Judd Apatow‘s comedies. I love the sense of humour, the way they sometimes push too far, the fact he is so loyal to the actors he hires. You walk into the theatre knowing these people have made you laugh before, so you feel safe in the knowledge you will be entertained. So when it doesn’t happen, it’s a real let down.
Maybe they’ve peaked. Perhaps This Is 40 was a one off and the next film will be a smash hit. Perhaps the issue is that we’ve seen the same actors (Jason Segel and Chris O’Dowd also co-star) in so many different combinations now, that the chemistry from their collaborations is getting stale. I don’t want to believe this is the beginning of the end of the Judd Apatow era, because most of the time he and his humble players get it right. It’s just hard to see that silver lining, when you pay to watch a load of self-indulgent trollop that bores you to death.
This Is 40 is available on DVD now!