[Review] - This Is 40

Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Annnd... I've had enough of Judd Apatow. After the massive disappointment (and apparently ironic title) that was Funny People, I had hoped that This Is 40 might be a return to form of sorts. As it turns out, the form on display here appear to be the only one Apatow has, and anything else is an outlier, an anomaly not fit for documentation. This Is 40 is an narcissistic waste of far too much of an audience's time, wasted on unlikeable characters in a go-nowhere plot, whose funniest scene was an outtake that played over the credits.

After watching it, it ruined the rest of my day. I was in a literal funk for hours after watching this film.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that don't really care.

I'm going to be completely upfront about the only thing that is enjoyable about This Is 40: Albert Brooks. The man is a marvel. Considering the amount of improv that Apatow films usually contain, it is easy to assume that most of what comes out of his mouth was born there and not on any page. Certainly not if you compare it with the rest of the script, which in it's far too many pages doesn't come close to being as funny as just one of Brooks' lines. Hopefully, after watching his performance the rest of them, cast and crew, stepped back for a moment and reevaluated their lives, understanding that what they want to be doing is what Brooks is actually capable of. His scenes, often monologues, presumably because the rest of the cast was gob struck at how to respond, are the highlight of a much better film.

The rest is a mess. It lacks enough laughs to in good conscious call itself a comedy, as did Funny People, and to be fair, as did Knocked Up, the film from which this is born. If Apatow wants to make human dramas, then just say so. Don't dress them up as comedies just because they bring in more money. That will back fire on you, and word of mouth with sour your future successes.

The film lacks any plot. At all. It is a character study through and through. Except the characters lack any cohesive structure to help them move from one segment to another. If the argument against that is that life lacks plot, then I have a hard truth to tell you: this isn't life, this is a movie, and movies have plot. This isn't a documentary, this is meant to be entertainment. Give your characters something to do. Within the confines of that story, then you can explore the characters to the depth you want to. Don't introduce an endless parade of plot points, only to abandon them with little interest. By my count, the only story line that has anything near a resolution is the "who is stealing money" plot, but only after being abandoned for half the film.

And if the film is meant to depend entirely on characters, make them likable. Make them interesting. Don't make them shrewd, angry, insufferable, terrible people who ten minutes in your wouldn't mind if they all died terribly (and would in fact champion it). Make at least one character relatable, or at the least, tolerable, so the audience has someone to root for, rather then rooting for someone to snap and kill them all in their sleep. I was actively hoping for Paul Rudd to have a heart attack, something that could well have happened at multiple points. And might have made the film interesting.

What amused me was, considering this film was spun off what what were apparently engaging secondary characters from Knocked Up (having rewatched it recently, I can tell you, they weren't), was that none of the secondary characters here were in any way engaging. Albert Brooks was funny, yes, but not interesting. My advice to Chris O'Dowd is get out of Apatow's circle now, while you have a chance. Otherwise, risk getting stuck in the same inescapable orbit Jason Segel finds himself in. Oddly, Megan Fox did a halfways decent job, which I cannot explain. Everyone else, but especially John Lithgow, who plays his first scene as if he's appearing on Broadway, and the rest of the film as if he were back on the set of 3rd Rock, is a waste of talent.

If you want to make home movies Apatow, go right ahead. Just stop expecting us to watch them.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


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