Judd Apatow has proven adept at skewering relationships - 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Superbad - but his movies are not just about the laughs: Apatow is skilled at writing and delivering likable characters and amidst the absurdity he always manages to tap into genuine emotions. Or at least he used to: his most recent efforts have proven to be more miss than hit.Four years after their friends welcomed a child into the world, married couple Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann, Apatow’s real world wife) are struggling in every aspect of the word: Pete’s independent music label is treading water, someone’s embezzling cash from Debbie’s clothing store, their kids (Apatow and Mann’s children) are a handful. Their financial situation is exacerbated by Pete’s deadbeat dad (Albert Brooks) who is always tapping him for a loan, which causes stress between Debbie and Pete. And then there’s the added stress of Debbie’s upcoming 40th birthday.
Apatow is obviously trying to highlight the warts and all view of long-term relationships, especially the notion of routines and how endearing traits become infuriating idiosyncrasies. Indeed he brilliantly captures that combined frustration in a scene where Pete and Debbie discuss how they’d do away with the other; it is both hilarious and cathartic. There are also a few other bright spots, but alas there are far too few of them especially in a movie with a two-hour plus runtime: the bulk of the story essentially revels in the misery of married life. But it doesn’t end there.
Despite the valiant efforts of the cast, the characters as written, are uniformly annoying, and leave viewers with little to root for. Apatow also shoehorns in several unnecessary subplots - the most egregious being the one involving Megan Fox and the grating Charlyne Yi, whose only purpose seems to be to showcase how hot Fox is compared to all the other female characters. The story also lacks any sense of organic flow; instead it comes across like an episode of Saturday Night Live, where you have a collection of skits that are loosely strung together without any connecting element. And it’s really hard to feel any empathy for a couple who are experiencing financial woes when they’re driving luxury cars and spend money like it’s growing in their backyard.This is 40 is overly long, generally unfunny, and ultimately a downer. If you’re looking for a reason not to get married, look no further.