Judd Apatow broke big directing movies prominently featuring the “man-child,” big-hearted male leads emotionally trapped in adolescence. (See: “40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Knocked Up.”)
With “This Is 40,” he goes more grown-up and more personal — and ends up with way too much of both and his weakest film yet.
Apatow has mostly used his comedic power for good. In addition to the aforementioned comedies he directed, he created two pitch-perfect TV comedies (“Freaks & Geeks,” “Undeclared”) and has served as producer on nearly every great comedy of the past decade, from “Anchorman” to “Bridesmaids.”
Apatow has earned a little self-indulgence, but “This Is 40” — a sort-of sequel to “Knocked Up” — really goes overboard in that department. When you’re casting your real-life wife and kids as leads in the movie, you gotta deliver better than this, dude.
We meet up with Debbie (Leslie Mann) and Pete (Paul Rudd) — aka the married couple from “Knocked Up” — as they’re having sex in the shower. In the heat of the moment, Pete lets Debbie know his passion is Viagra-fueled. Hilarity ensues.
More comedy comes from the couple’s kids (Maude and Iris Apatow), the younger specializing in saying the darndest things, the elder obsessively watching episodes of “Lost” on her iPad. (“It’s not melting my brain. It’s blowing my mind.”)
Apatow continues in a broad meditation of married life, parenthood and the pressures of being a grown-up with a top-notch comedy cast that includes everyone from Albert Brooks to Melissa McCarthy.
Look, this movie should have just been … better. The cast is killer. It’s sweet (almost to a fault). And it’s … sporadically funny.
Apatow movies have always tended to be funny first with a heartfelt side that sneaks up on you. “This Is 40” puts the cart before the horse and too much weight on Mann, who is talented but can’t quite carry a film yet.
There are certainly lots of laughs — albeit too many of that improv, outtake variety Apatow goes overboard with — but nothing really justifies the wandering story and character that Apatow is clearly too close to.
Judd, come back to the immature side.