January 22, 2013 by CINEfaction Movie Review.
Just like its characters This is 40 is witless and empty. Mann and Rudd are portrayed as a loveless, incompatible couple stuck together by their bratty kids. Right off the bat this makes it difficult to invest in any kind of meaningful conclusion to the film. Why should they stay together? What do they have in common? Why should i care? They just seem to float around fixating on sex and suppressed violence. When the couple aren’t swearing or talking crudely about sex, they have nothing to say and neither does the film. It struck me just how childish the whole thing is/was, the film seems to be written by (and largely played by) mindless adolescents obviously still high on saying the F word and talking about tits. A love letter to Appatows wife this surely isn’t…
After 45 minutes of aimless, meandering mumbling the film seems to want to introduce a plot but much like its ADD characters it gets ignored for the want of more cock jokes and ill conceived blow job scenes. We learn that someone is stealing from the shop that Mann’s character now runs and that Rudd is a failing record company owner. It’s odd then that these are the weakest moments of the film, Rudd’s lifeless music industry monologue and Mann’s sit down confrontations with her colleagues are as blunt as they are awkwardly conceived.
However, the films main problem is its just too long, scenes dither, rumbling on and on which ultimately detracts from any possible cinematic weight or substance. The film also sets up some fairly large problems that it doesn’t resolve, such as the kids and their attitude, are we to assume they are just f*cked up, spoilt and that’s it? That just because their parents stopped having sex and watched each other shitting that they have irreparably damaged their seemingly bright kids? The kids aren’t ever fully formed, sympathetic or sad, they’re written as ungrateful brats. Also, there is no resolution to their financial woes and it seems to exist solely in a shoddy attempt to stay relevant with the current economic climate and to add meaning and context to the monotonous titty gags. In the end, we are left to assume that they will just sell the house and everything will be fine. Fat bloody chance.
The ‘people’ in the movie are annoying and whiny instead of being well written and honest. It’s true that you don’t have to necessarily like everyone in the movies but you should at least care whether they are OK at the films conclusion. Stuff gets said by the various ‘adults’ but nothing ever changes or progresses, we just get the same scene over and over. Someone said previously that Appatow is the Cassavetes of the R-rated comedy and if that were true he would surely strike a better balance between the two worlds. Rather than just knock over the proverbial stools Apatow prefers to piss and shit on them. Like previously stated the supposed rawness or honesty of the film only takes the form of crude sexual references or uncomfortable admittance. Cassavettes would have at the very least given us actual character development and weight amidst his patented free-form murk.
Kevin Smith’s Apatow-lite Zack and Miri might be the best example of this type of R-rated comedy movie despite its box office flopping. Its main difference is its embrace of simple cinematic convention. It isn’t the work of some narcissistic writer just brazenly painting his family life on screen, its the work of someone who enjoys other peoples films and film itself. Zack And Miri manages to be equal parts foul and likable (although, i accept that its not wholly successful). Comic cinema is all about balance. Would Planes, Trains and Automobiles be anything without John Candy’s puppy dog character? He is the perfect counter-point to Steve Martins straight laced automaton, it makes the film stick. There is nothing or no one to provide grounding from which This Is 40 can run, thus it falls flat on its face.
Finally, I have no doubt that there is a perfectly funny, rather astute 90min movie itching to get out of this fatty 134min sludge of a film. But then again that’s precisely the point, rather than make a movie other people might enjoy, Apatow made a home movie and nobody likes watching those.