Director Judd Apatow’s “This Is 40” puts his “Knocked Up” couple Pete and Debbie under the microscope in this bright sort-of sequel. Debbie (Leslie Mann, Apatow’s real-life wife) is celebrating – or rather, not celebrating – turning 40. But as significant as that chronological milestone is for most people, Apatow bathes his movie in non-significance. In other words, in a marriage of semi-long duration, turning 40 is a solitary peak amidst a terrain of valleys and utter sameness.
Apatow’s genius here is editing tempo. He moves from one marital concern to another – personal, joint and professional – with a beat that’s so regular you could march to it. The result is very much like, well, marriage. For two hours there’s little distinction between pseudo crises and the real thing: Pete’s scarfing down cupcakes on the sly, his floundering business, spontaneous sex, their oldest daughter Sadie’s (Maude Apatow) hormonal meltdowns, money pilfering at Debbie’s retail business, an unplanned pregnancy, school-mom chaos (courtesy of Melissa McCarthy), and emotional and financial issues with Pete’s and Debbie’s father and father-in-law (Albert Brooks and John Lithgow).
It’s not as though Pete and Debbie don’t want to prioritize. The state of marriage won’t let them. This is 40: the beginning of Saturnine ossification and drying up. Apatow somehow manages to make standardization exhilarating.
Rating: ♄ (Saturn)