This is 40, Judd Apatow’s kind-of sequel to Knocked Up, is an overlong (2 hours! 14 minutes! what is this? LOTR?) sort-of comedy; It semi-endearingly deals with the mess of growing old, which apparently is almost MORE messy than growing up (especially if you’re trying to somehow to grow old without FULLY becoming a grown up). I loved it. I loved it in sort of the same way I love that meandering sentence I just wrote and which Alan is bound to trim down and make a lot more to the point [ed. note: I totally trimmed it down]. And just the way I respect Alan’s keen eye for keeping things a little more on course [ed. note: Thanks!], I can respect the fact that A LOT of people will not love it, or even like it. But let me try and at least allow you to give it a fair chance and sort of mentally prepare you for it.
- Your First mistake: you are maybe rolling into the movie theater expecting a comedy. After all, Knocked Up was a comedy (By the way, I never much cared for that movie for reasons I may or may not get into as I go further into this review), and some of Apatow’s best known/loved work (as a producer) was, too. Well, this isn’t REALLY a comedy. It is a pretty heartbreaking movie that HAPPENS to have some funny bits (ok, a fair amount of funny bits), but if anything, it is most like Apatow’s massively underrated Funny People than any other film associated with this comedic svengali. Once you are aware of that and adjust your expectations, you may love it a whole lot more.
- Your Second Mistake: you and your family may mistake the overall “adorable-couple-with-adorable-children-movie-release-on-Christmas” vibe is for ALL OF YOU, including your weird, extremely conservative emo hipster Christian cousin visiting from Arizona. Not so much. In fact, I would say, this movie should be watched by yourself, or maybe with a close (non-judgy) friend. There is no way you are all agreeing about who to root for in this situation, nor are you ready for the anal exam scenes, grown-up parents smoking weed scenes, or jokes about vaginal wall nerve damage due to Cesarian sections (all of which are, imo, VERY funny). One you are aware of that, and are able to avoid awkward family conversations afterwards, you’ll be fine.
- Your Third Mistake: you saw the cast list and are going to see this because you think: Paul Rudd is the guy you wish you/your sister ended up with, Lena Dunham is your (anti?) hero, Leslie Mann is the woman you always wanted to marry, Megan Fox is the girl you always wanted to have sex with, Chris O’Dowd/ Jason Segal are the brothers you dreamt of, Maude Apatow is the kid you’re HOPING you end up with, John Lithgow has always been sort of your creepy old man crush, Albert Brooks is a God, and whatever else. While Apatow does love his actors and loves giving them improv room, this is not really about any single one of them, and if you expected (for example) the usual Segal amiable bear charmer persona, you will be disappointed (and if I tell you he has LESS screen time than Megan Fox, you may actually stop reading this now, BUT PLEASE DON’T). Once you know that, and go in ready to spend limited with each one of these people, you’ll be fine.
- Your Third AND A HALF Mistake: On account of the tender feelings you harbor for the aforementioned cast in true life ( I mean, JUST LOOK AT THEM!) you may go into this movie expecting to actually love the characters they are playing. You probably won’t. Much like YOU IN REAL LIFE, these people (while overall good and well intentioned) are at times vain, whiny, needy, insecure, nervous and very, very stressed. That means that they are NOT always fun to be around. Once you know that, and mentally prep yourself for that bad-date-heartbreak-feeling coming your way, you’ll be fine.
- Your Fourth Mistake: You have plans after seeing this movie and you HAD NO IDEA IT WAS GOING TO BE THIS FREAKING LONG. With the inevitable previews, you’re spending 2.5+ hours in the movie theater EASY. And it is going to piss you off. Don’t let it piss you off. Just like life, this movie is about the inevitable side excursions the main plot takes, and in the end, they are worth the time.
Now, that we got those out of the way, let me just name a few reasons why this movie is amazing:
- It is probably the most honest Hollywood film you’ll see all year. No one involved in making of it has a vain bone in their body: these characters live, love, yell, have weird sex, do crosswords on the bathroom, secretly smoke, eat cupcakes (out of wet sinks), and have bad instincts just like you or me or that dude reading this over your shoulder.
- Rudd and Mann are a great couple. Not in a “awwww-they are so cute together” way (because actually, they kind of aren’t) but because they are a couple you can actually imagine yourself ending up in: the well meaning man-child and the completely neurotic ex-hot girl who never quite got used to being a hot WOMAN, despite children and houses and mortgages and all. Both of them also have terrific comedic timing and are obviously relishing the fact that they get to play someone their own age, surrounded by people they trust here. Rudd’s Pete’s complete inability to face conflict gels pretty well with Mann’s over-plucked LA non-casual-casualness. His softness perfectly complements her perma-stress, even if it is a huge part of why they fight (the one scene where they DO get along, memorably, involves weed and her FINALLY relaxing, even if for just one night).
- While Apatow’s strengths are really more as producer, as opposed to director, he is obviously a keen observer of the human nature and the actors he works with really, really trust him, resulting in the kind of performances I just mentioned in the previous bullet points.
- In the end, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll HAVE OPINIONS about all of these people and their actions, which is what ART AND MOVIE MAKING IS ALL ABOUT DAMMIT. You’re welcome.