A spin-off from Judd Apatow’s raunchy rom-com hit Knocked Up, This Is 40 catches up with two of the earlier film’s sidekicks, Leslie Mann’s Debbie and Paul Rudd’s Pete, as they approach the watershed birthday of the title.
Married with two daughters, their relationship is already under strain from a variety of domestic anxieties and niggles but is put under even more stress because of problems with their respective businesses and fathers.
Nit-picking neurotic Debbie has trouble with light-fingered staff at the boutique she owns (Megan Fox and Charlyne Yi are the suspects); the shambling, equally neurotic Pete is struggling to keep his independent record label afloat and staking his all on a new release by veteran British rocker Graham Parker. The fact that he’s constantly doling out money to his sponging dad (Adam Brooks) doesn’t help, while Debbie gets no succour from her emotionally distant father (John Lithgow).
As he’s proved in his films to date, Apatow is adept at mining his own life for comedy – Mann is Apatow’s off-screen wife and their daughters, Maude and Iris, play Debbie and Pete’s precocious offspring – but his latest effort is even more self-absorbed than usual.
And when your humour requires viewers to chortle along in recognition this is something of a drawback. We’re clearly meant to identify with Mann and Rudd’s characters – but do we really care if they have to downsize from their vast LA mansion?
There are laughs, sure, with Brooks’ unabashed moocher coming up with many of the film’s best lines and chucklesome support from a variety of Apatow chums, including Bridesmaids’ Chris O’Dowd and Melissa McCarthy. But the overall results are distinctly patchy and at 133 minutes, the film is at least half an hour too long.
In cinemas from Thursday 13th February.
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