My good friend Ryan (who also happens to be a fantastic writer) recently saw This is 40 and had so many feelings about it that he needed a place to get them out. Luckily for us at NGN, he turned to me for a place to share his thoughts and is now the first official Nerdy Guy to join our great group of writers!
Many things conspired to get me into a theater to see This is 40 on a Friday night. Gift cards, mainly, but also a late dinner and the poor scheduling of a Regal Cinemas that only offered showtimes after 8:20 for the Judd Apatow movie and a Texas Chainsaw reboot. I’d still pick This is 40 out of those options–if only because of Freaks and Geeks–but, for the record, Texas Chainsaw 3D was sold out. The evening was doomed from the start.
I don’t have 40 reasons why This is 40 was terrible. That would be all too convenient. My mix of reasons gets lost in a sea of anger over losing $20 in a transaction that gave me back a movie which was 45 minutes too long. I lost money and time I will never get back. Ever. Judd Apatow is trying to kill me.
Sitting through This is 40 made me uncomfortable. It showed on my face. I squirmed and shifted my weight in my seat. I felt trapped. A couple behind me left midway through the movie. They are better people than I and, perhaps, value their time and money with slightly different ratios. Neither of them had a blog post to write, I suppose.
To start, it wasn’t funny. It was supposed to be funny, right? I don’t think I actually laughed the entire film. Definitely nothing laugh-out-loud funny. There were times I noticed something was supposed to be funny. It was like a friend poorly describing a video he saw on Funny or Die. This is 40 needed a laugh track. This is not a compliment.
Apatow is fairly famous for his inability to create interesting female characters in his movies. They are cold and lack a sense of humor. They ruin everything, including the footloose and fancy-free lifestyle of his heroic goofball leading men. They are Stepford Wives, clones of Katherine Heigl, who probably has a Google News alert set up for her name and will send an extra from Grey’s Anatomy to kill me once this is published.
Ever aware of this criticism, Apatow decided to cast actual family members in this movie. His wife, Leslie Mann, plays the wife in the film. His children, Maude and Iris, are the children. Despite the fact that these people totally exist in real life, it didn’t translate onto film.
Leslie Mann is fine as Debbie, actually. She seems totally nice, and was great in Funny People. It was everything else that weirded me out about the movie. Apatow basically plucked himself out of his family tree and threw Paul Rudd (who plays Pete) in there. I love Paul Rudd. He’s quirky and goofy and handsome. That should have worked. It did not.
Maude, bless her heart, has two frequencies in her acting: screaming and wooden. Her Sadie is misunderstood and loves Lost and hates Mad Men. There’s a Keep Calm and Carry On poster in Maude’s room, because every teenage girl loves 1930s British propaganda. She’s smarter than her parents and will grow up to be perfectly normal, I’m sure.
Iris, cute as can be, is not good at acting. Few people with an age in single digits are any good, really. As Charlotte she sounds like those AT&T commercials with the children who are not supposed to reading a script but clearly are. Iris, bless her somewhat smaller heart, needs an injection of whatever Quvenzhané Wallis has coursing through her veins. Maybe Apatow should call Frank Ocean.
But children should not be blamed for the faults of their parents. Apatow’s the one with the pen here, and the rest of the female characters in the movie are equally monosyllabic. Barb (Annie Mumolo) has a dead vagina. Desi (Megan Fox) is an escort. Jodi (Charlyne Yi) is a pill addict and is mentally unstable. Melissa McCarthy briefly plays herself. So does Lena Dunham which, oh, great. She’s here, too.
The plot is a mess. The couple keeps dumb secrets from one another. A bunch of money is stolen, and that plot line is never truly resolved. For a movie concerned about money, they sure drive really nice cars. Ryan Adams somehow saved everything and oh, my God, I just want to go home. Please let me go.
The sad thing is, I enjoyed the last movie Apatow wrote, produced and directed. Funny People, was released in 2009 and also was 45 minutes too long. I didn’t particularly enjoy the first viewing, but the second time through I really enjoyed it. There was a depth and honesty to Adam Sandler’s performance that I didn’t expect. Marshall Mathers asked a question I still haven’t answered. It was great.
I had that experience still in mind when I walked into the theater to see This is 40. Even if the first time didn’t get me, I hoped there would be something worth seeing on HBO. It just wasn’t there, and I’m not going to give Apatow a second chance this time around.
Also, someone please blow up the planet when I turn 39.