This Is 40 is a comedy spin-off from Knocked Up, written and directed by Judd Apatow. The film centres on the lives of Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann), a married couple who are turning 40 as they deal with a stressed marriage, two daughters and barely surviving businesses; Pete owns his own small record company and Debbie has her own clothing boutique. Their plan to deal with it? Make changes to improve the small things.
The movie often dwells on the realisms of everyday life and interactions between the characters, specifically Pete, Debbie and their two daughters, Sadie (Maude Apatow) and Charlotte (Iris Apatow), who fight and bicker like real sisters – and they are. Both are the director’s daughters. This focus of interactive realism is something that many comedies would skip over but here it helps to build a sense of where the family stands, softening the need for extreme situations that this movie doesn’t have compared to the hilarity of comedies like Bridesmaids, for example. It’s this focus that makes a difference and specifically makes Leslie Mann a standout.
There are plenty of instances for laughs present. While nothing is at the level of keeling over with laughter, the film is far from dull. There are a lot of situations that deserve at least a giggle, at most a slap on the knee. Not having the type of over-the-top script a movie like this would be expected of is almost refreshing as nothing ever feels forced, even if there is some ridiculousness to it.
The weakness of This Is 40 comes with the length as it begins to feel long toward the end. Due to the many smaller instances of problematic situations introduced throughout the film for the large cast of characters, a lot of effort is put into resolving many of them, which extends the movie even longer. The entire subplot with Debbie’s father Oliver (John Lithgow) could have been removed with no harm done to the film. Despite these conflicts, many of them make it difficult to feel too bad for anyone which may or may not have been the intention. Otherwise, This Is 40 is somewhat of a heartwarming comedy that delivers well with its strong cast of supporting characters and plot that still feels real and authentic.