In Ancient Greek Theatre there were two very clear and separate genres, comedy and tragedy. No play would ever display elements of both. The director of this film, Judd Apatow, would have struggled to get a show on in 400BC Athens
If you are one of the six people who saw Apatow’s last film, Funny People, you’ll be familiar with this effective mix of broad humour and bleak drama. That movie, along with his other works The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up, all benefitted from ensemble casts and if we needed a break from the heartache it was easily possible to pop back to the stoner housemates or the profane work colleagues to get a few laughs. In the case of This is 40, the ensemble are mostly all members of the same family so when they are making you laugh you still have the images of exactly the same characters suffering some domestic tragedy moments before. This is 40 is funniest when it does move away from the central family but it doesn’t do so very often.
That isn’t to say that father Paul Rudd, mother Leslie Mann (Apatow’s real wife) and the kids (weirdly Apatow’s real kids) do not raise some chuckles but they are painful chuckles of the ‘you’ve got to laugh or you’ll cry’ variety.
My reaction to this film should be put into context; I was born in April 1973 so a quick bit of math will let you know that I am exactly the intended demographic for this flick. I came to it expecting to see some kind of reflection of my own life and what I got was a frustrated couple trapped in trudging domesticity who couldn’t properly relate to their children. It would be easy to distance myself from this, happy in the knowledge that my existence is nothing like that but then there are moments in the movie where something will happen or be said that is just like it is for me. It is as if Apatow is saying, ‘No, look, this is you. You do this kind of thing too, so stop sitting there being so supercilious.’
What there is of a story is clichéd and predictable, especially at the end but the characters are amiable and there are some chuckles to be had along the way. Just don’t expect a laugh a minute, expect a laugh every five minutes sprinkled liberally between the doom and despair.
Is this one for the kids?
It is a 15 anyway so no but if you let your kids watch this movie they will instantly lose respect for all parent figures in their life.