Film review: This Is 40 - the party's over for Judd Apatow

1.00

(15)

Having enjoyed Judd Apatow's comedy of embarrassment in the past (The 40-Year-Old Virgin), I wasn't quite prepared for how much I'd dislike his latest. His ribald, potty-mouthed dialogue has always been an acquired taste, and other films from the stable – Knocked Up, Funny People – have struggled to persuade us that his most abrasive and difficult characters are, at some level, adorable. This Is 40, his new one, puts paid to that illusion.

A sequel of sorts to Knocked Up (2007), it shifts that movie's minor couple to front and centre. Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) are both approaching 40, and the wheels seem to be coming off their marriage. Sex between them isn't what it was (he's using Viagra) and despite their nice lifestyle they've money worries – his small, independent record label is failing big-time, her fashion boutique has an employee stealing from the till.

They have two cute daughters (played by Apatow's own, Maude and Iris) though the older one acts up, whines and throws tantrums. The apple hasn't fallen far from the tree. They also both have unsatisfactory fathers: Pete's (Albert Brooks) has sponged off him for years, while Debbie's (John Lithgow) is estranged to the point that he hardly knows she has a family of her own.

Well, nobody's perfect, right? The problem here is that Pete and Debbie barely even like each other, and the way Apatow presents them neither do we. She's brittle, insecure, snitty, and complains about his bingeing on cupcakes. He's merely oafish and juvenile, a true Apatovian who leaves the toilet door open, farts in bed and sees nothing wrong in asking his wife to check a swelling in his anus. (If that's not a death sentence to your sex life, I don't know what is.)

Much of the movie consists in their having rows that are supposed to be honest and edgy but sound only like a couple of childish narcissists screeching at one another. At one point Debbie confronts a boy who dissed her daughter on Facebook and savagely reduces him to tears; later, called into the school head's office, she lies about it. We are watching spoilt, inadequate people behaving in unforgivable ways, yet Apatow evidently thinks we should find them charming.

Strangely, one of them is. Albert Brooks plays Pete's dad as a moocher, bemused by the responsibility to his much younger wife and their trio of small blond boys. He's selfish and manipulative and ungrateful – when Pete hands him a John Lennon doodle he can sell for a few grand on eBay, the old man regards it disdainfully ("Looks more like one of Ringo's"). But at least Brooks is funny with it, at least when he appears on screen you don't want to hide your face and cringe. Which is what I was doing the rest of the time. It's like Scenes from a Marriage rewritten by a hormonally challenged teenager – or else by Judd Apatow. This is horrible. This is purgatorial.

Arts and Entertainment
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'