Sunday, December 30, 2012

THIS IS 40 (2012)

Written & Directed by Judd Apatow

Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA. December 22, 2012  8:15PM

There was a time when turning thirty used to be the age filled with anxiety and panic as it seemed you were soon on the verge of requiring a walker and spending the rest of your days playing bingo. Now, because of healthy living and medical advancements, the age has been pushed back to forty as the new time in a person's life that brings fear, dread and the first sign of noticeable wrinkles.

"This Is Forty" is the latest raunchy comedy laced with heart by writer/director, Judd Apatow that tackles the subject of the many difficulties of aging in the modern world. Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann (otherwise known as Mrs. Apatow) reprise their supporting roles in Mr. Apatow's 2007 film, "Knocked-Up" as a long married L.A. couple both approaching middle-age with their two daughters; Sadie, a difficult and complicated teenager and her younger sister, Charlotte who are played once again by the film maker's children, Maude and Iris Apatow. While there should be plenty of comic gold to be found about growing older, the film tends to focus on the quick, cheap laugh of youth instead of pursuing the introspective humor of a mature adult. Since this was clearly made with grown folks in mind, it relies much too heavily on vulgar, comedic antics that feels too juvenile. However, Mr. Rudd and Ms Mann make an appealing team and bring out the best in each other.

Pete (Rudd) and Debbie (Mann) are both turning forty a few days apart and while Pete has accepted the fact and is having a party to celebrate, his wife is miserable about the idea and wants no part of the party they usually share. The couple has bigger problems, however, as Pete left a major record label to start his own music label, sinking much of his money in to producing a record for a musician that he loves; 70's rocker, Graham Parker. With his PR team (which include Lena Dunham of HBO's "Girls" and "Bridesmaids" star, Chris O'Dowd), they are trying to figure out how to generate some serious sales for this album that few modern audiences seem interested in, otherwise he might lose his house. Pete suffers another financial drain as he secretly continues to give money to his father, Larry (Albert Brooks) against Debbie's wishes. With a younger wife and a set of triplet toddlers he can't tell apart,  Larry has no problem laying a guilt-trip on his son until he gives in to helping out his old man.

Meanwhile, Debbie has opened a clothing boutique but has discovered that a significant sum of money is missing. She has two employees with one, Jodi (Charlyne Yi) confiding to Debbie that she thinks that Desi (Megan Fox) is the one stealing mainly because she recently purchased some expensive goods and she's very attractive. Debbie's relationship with her icy father (John Lithgow) has remained strained and uncomfortable that it's managed to spill over in to her marriage in unexpected ways. In between all of their personal stress, the couple has to deal with their teenage daughter's irrational meltdowns, dramatic outbursts and the pangs of her first school crush.

Mr. Apatow has achieved great success by finding great humor in uncomfortably, crude situations, crass language and bodily functions while somehow managing to give it an air of intelligence and sophistication but with "This Is Forty", the thread-bare plot has much more in common with a teen comedy like "American Pie" than the original film this sort-of-sequel follows. Although the director's script is smart, filled with insightful thoughts and hilarious zingers but the film feels haphazardly thrown together and unnecessarily lengthy. This is not helped by allowing his talented cast to veer the story off course with them improvising wildly. While they deliver some very funny bits, it ends up with some strange behavior and inappropriate dialogue that their characters would not believably do.

With this collection of top-notch comedians on screen, it would be difficult for any one performer to stand out but in this case there are actually two; one that is not quite surprising and the other is very unexpected. Melissa McCarthy, (who also stole the show in "Bridesmaids") manages to steal the film in her over-the-top, brief appearance as the uptight mother of the boy that Sadie has a crush on while Ms Fox, the beauty best known for her dramatic moments in the "Transformers" flicks, displays some serious comedic chops. Apatow cast her based on her very funny appearance on "Saturday Night Live" and it proves to be no fluke as the actress is fearless, willing to look completely ridiculous for a laugh.

While it dazzles with an impressive ensemble and shining moments of clever humor, "This Is Forty" feels fairly conventional and uninspired as it lacks that sparkle that made Mr Apatow's previous work so entertainingly funny. The film actually makes forty feel old, deranged and not exactly a wonderful time in some one's life.