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This is 40 (2012)

Josh Reviews This is 40

I’m an enormous Judd Apatow fan.  I’m proud to say that I watched and loved Freaks and Geeks (the criminally cancelled-before-its time TV show created by Paul Feig and executive-produced by Mr. Apatow) back when it originally aired.  Same goes with Undeclared, Mr. Apatow’s equally-great-but-nevertheless-also-painfully-cancelled follow-up show.  I think The 40 Year-Old Virgin is one of the funniest comedies I have ever seen in my life, and Knocked Up is almost as great.  I have mixed feelings about Funny People. (Click here for my original review.)  I love the ambition behind the film, and I love how personal a film it feels like it was for Mr. Apatow, even though I acknowledge that there is a lot about the film that doesn’t completely work.  When I wrote about Funny People, I commented that it felt like Mr. Apatow was aspiring to create a James L. Brooks film, one that is funny but also personal and emotional.  I think he succeeded — Funny People feels very much to me like a James L. Brooks film, and that is a huge compliment.  In the film’s emotional honesty, in its ability to land a screamer of a punch-line, and also in the shaggy nature of its narrative, Funny People has a lot in common with Mr. Brooks’ work.

I feel the same way about This is 40. The film is very funny and is filled with a ton of throw-away hysterical lines laced throughout the dialogue as well as complete comedic sequences (Pete and Debbie’s drugged-out weekend away; Pete’s confrontation with an angry school-mom played by Melissa McCarthy), both of which are a mark of Mr. Apatow’s strongest work.  But it’s also a film with a strong emotional through-line, and a difficult one at that.  Pete and Debbie are married with two kids, but as much as they seem to love one another they also are at in a point in their lives together when they drive each another crazy.  They each have personal issues they are wrestling with, they have financial problems, and they struggle to raise their kids well while still having some semblance of a life of their own.  They are often quick to snipe at one another and to put one another down.  There are still sparks between them, and they have a long history together, and two kids they are trying to bring up, but can their marriage survive the pressures (both external and self-imposed) that they put on it?

These are weighty issues for a comedy film to grapple with, and for the most part the film avoids easy answers.  The film also wisely avoids the simplistic emotional arc of most romantic comedies, instead taking … [continued]