Plugged as the ‘Sort-of Sequel’ to 2007’s Knocked Up, This Is 40 follows the lives of Alison’s sister’s marriage a few years after the first film. Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann reprise their roles as the bickering married couple, and this time around we see deeper into their relationship and the reasons behind those petty fights.
Mann is brilliant as Debbie, insisting on her 40th birthday that she is in fact 38. Despite her good looks and enviable physique, Mann is fresh and funny as a woman on the verge of menopause. It is comforting to see a woman so seemingly-beautiful get so hung up about her age, and reinforces the fact that all women dread the big 4-0.
Rudd brings his usual odd sense of humour to proceedings as Pete, and manages to inject a lot of seriousness into a role which requires a greater level of maturity than the previous film. Faced with financial difficulties, a waning sex-life and the pressures of teen- and tween-aged daughters, Debbie and Pete struggle to make married life work. Under the veil of some excellent situational comedy and growing-up-gags, there lies a darker exposé of middle-aged marriage.
The supporting cast are great, with John Lithgow making an appearance as Debbie’s father and Jason Segel a welcome return as friend and personal-trainer Jason. Megan Fox does her usual sex-object-thing as Debbie’s employee Desi (creating the body-consciousness Mann later struggles with) and Chris O’Dowd is funny as Pete’s colleague Ronnie.
Mann and Apatow’s real-life children Maude and Iris are among the best supporting actors in this picture, playing Pete and Debbie’s young daughters. Their comfort on set is probably in large part due to the fact that they are working with such a close (family) crew, however, this cannot gloss over the fact that both girls are great actresses in their own right. Both girls act with an ease often lacking in child-stars, and one cannot help but think that this is due to the excellent direction of their father.
A special mention must also go to Melissa McCarthy for her incredibly funny improvised scene in the principal’s office, which is one of the funniest in the film and oculd have been drawn out much longer. The movie is lacking in Apatow’s usual laugh-out-loud humour, but it is also refreshing to see him make a more personal and serious flick
Apatow and Mann have confusingly contradicted each other in interviews as to whether the movie is based on their relationship, but regardless of the truth, this film is a fun and topical watch. This Is 40 highlights all the annoying habits and white lies that those in long term relationships come to deal with, and brings real issues to light with a hint of silliness, putting our pet hates in perspective and making us realise every marriage is the same.
The Apatow-team once again deliver a funny movie with a lot of heart, and in place of the customary stoner-comedy comes a more grown up, and entirely welcome message.