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This Is 40 (Blu-ray)
Universal / 2012 / 134 Minutes / Unrated
Street Date: March 22, 2013
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Reviewed by David Krauss
Thursday, March 21, 2013
Though I just hit 50, I can still vividly remember what turning 40 was like, and writer-director Judd Apatow pretty much nails it in 'This Is 40,' a follow-up of sorts to his popular 2007 comedy 'Knocked Up.' From the feelings of stagnation, uncertainty, and encroaching infirmity to the Viagara, obsessive exercise, and growing need to escape the pressures of daily life, Apatow's slice-of-(zany)-life film touches as many bases - and nerves - as it dares during its bloated 134-minute running time. In typical fashion, Apatow offsets moments of keen insight with sequences of utter silliness, but somehow everything gels together into an entertaining, if inconsistent, portrait of the pitfalls, stresses, and ultimate rewards of long-term relationships and suburban domesticity, with just enough spice and raunch to keep it from hitting too close to home.
Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) sniped and bickered through 'Knocked Up' as the second bananas to Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl, and they do much the same as the leads in 'This Is 40.' Though their devotion to each other always feels unshakeable, getting through the challenges of day-to-day life is a chore, and the prospect of turning 40 doesn't help. Raising their two daughters, Sadie (Maude Apatow) and Charlotte (Iris Apatow), requires more patience than either parent possesses; Pete's record label can no longer support the family's lavish lifestyle, especially with his lazy father (Albert Brooks) always asking for handouts; and Debbie, who refuses to accept her advancing age, rues Pete's growing detachment while suspecting the hot salesgirl (Megan Fox) at her struggling boutique is raiding the kitty. The more Pete and Debbie futilely attempt to deal with their individual issues and burdens, the more they grate on each others' nerves. Little annoyances balloon into major differences, and the two labor to find common ground.
The devil is in the details here, and when Apatow takes mundane kernels of truth and inserts them in larger situations, he sparks plenty of recognizable moments. A shower sex scene evolves into a confession of insecurity over diminishing virility, while a habitual retreat into the bathroom to play Scrabble on an iPad signals a wish to escape from spousal and parental pressures and responsibilities. Though we may not be able to identify with every element and problem in Pete and Debbie's cluttered lives, there's enough universality for us to relate to more than maybe we'd care to admit.
Like our own spouses, children, and parents, the characters in 'This Is 40' are alternately endearing and insufferable, and so is the film that showcases them. I cringed more than a couple of times, but I also laughed out loud - heartily - more times than I could count, and I rarely do that. The film features more drama and whining than I anticipated, as Apatow criticizes and lampoons our self-absorbed society, while celebrating commitment and all that it entails. The classic love-hate relationship that defines most marriages is aptly depicted, and when the movie gets messy, it reflects the messiness and crudity that permeate life and make it wonderful, exasperating, and unique.
I've always been a fan of Rudd's easygoing, low-key acting style, and he's his typically charming self here. Mann plays off him well, creating a comfortable chemistry that allows us to fully buy into their relationship. Though the casting of Apatow's (and Mann's) own kids initially seems like brazen nepotism, the two girls more than hold their own, proving they're adept little actresses with true comic flair. It's nice to see Brooks back on screen as Pete's nebbish dad raising triplet toddler boys, and John Lithgow plays Debbie's stuffy, emotionally distant father well. But it's Melissa McCarthy who makes the biggest supporting impression in a disposable role, milking a bushel of laughs as an enraged parent who believes Debbie bullied her teenage son. She and Rudd go toe-to-toe in what has to be the film's most hilarious sequence, even if it fails to propel the plot.
As another in what seems to be an endless string of mid-life crisis movies, 'This Is 40' is amusing, identifiable, occasionally touching, but hardly enlightening, falling squarely in the middle of a cluttered pack. By focusing on how both men and women deal with encroaching middle age, Apatow's film is a bit more textured than some, but it's way longer than almost all, and that's one of its biggest detriments. Rarely does a comedy merit a two-hour-plus running time, and 'This Is 40' isn't one of them. On the plus side, any film that makes me guffaw repeatedly deserves major kudos, and though much of the humor in 'This Is 40' is decidedly juvenile (and raunchy), it delivers the goods. A little more focus and a lot more editing, and who knows how good this picture could be?
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'This Is 40' arrives on Blu-ray packaged in a standard case sheathed in a slipcase. Inside is a 50GB dual-layer Blu-ray disc, a standard-def DVD, and a leaflet with instructions on how to download the Ultraviolet Digital Copy. Video codec is 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 and default audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Once the disc is inserted into the player, a promo for Ultraviolet and previews for 'A Haunted House,' 'Les Miserables,' and 'For a Good Time, Call...' immediately pop up, followed by the full-motion menu with optional ticker.
Like many recent theatrical releases, 'This Is 40' sports a crystal clear, well-balanced, thoroughly engaging image free of any nicks, marks, or scratches. Just a hint of grain lends the picture the feel of celluloid, and perfectly pitched contrast supplies the picture with marvelous presence and depth. Colors are bright and sufficiently bold, but never seem pushed, and fleshtones always look natural. Blacks exude a lovely richness, but shadow detail remains strong and crush is never an issue. Background elements are always easy to discern, and the textures of clothing and fabric come through nicely. Close-ups show off facial features well, but lack the dazzling razor sharpness of the best high-def transfers.
Which is not to say this effort from Universal is in any way deficient. No banding, noise, or aliasing afflicts the image, and any digital enhancements escape notice. This is a solid, smooth, trouble-free transfer; it simply lacks the wow factor that would set it apart from the pack.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track pumps out high-quality sound, but this dialogue-driven film doesn't possess much aural complexity. The bulk of the mix is front-based, with solid stereo separation opening up the soundscape and providing nice directionality with dialogue and effects. Atmospherics are sparse and difficult to detect, so the rears stay muted most of the time. A wide dynamic scale, however, allows highs to soar and lows to emit warmth and texture, especially during the music sequences, which benefit from excellent fidelity and tonal depth. Not a hint of distortion creeps into the mix, and no surface noise or other imperfections crop up.
Bass frequencies are strong, with the jets that continually roar over Larry's house supplying a palpable rumble, while dialogue is always clear and easy to understand, even when multiple characters are talking at once. Accents are distinct, but there's not much nuance to this largely pedestrian track that gets the job done without much fanfare.
'This Is 40' comes packed with extras sure to satisfy the film's fans. Most aren't particularly substantive, but for this type of movie, that's a no-brainer. What's here, however, is just what one would expect: a hefty collection of bloopers, deleted scenes, and wacky montages that are both irreverent and entertaining.
- Unrated Version of 'This Is 40' - Three minutes of footage is added to this version of the film, which can be accessed through the extras menu.
- Audio Commentary – Writer-director Judd Apatow goes solo for this commentary in an attempt to make it more insightful than the usual goofy, crowded free-for-all. For the most part, he succeeds, but rest assured, there are plenty of clever remarks, pointed zingers, and personal confessions delivered in a casual, jovial manner. Apatow terms the film "emotionally accurate," and divulges one-third of the material comes from his own family's experience, one-third comes from his friends' experiences, and one-third is simply made up. He also muses on such varied topics as marriage and relationships, the effects of farting on intimacy, his daughters' idiosyncrasies, squeezing sex into a busy family life, Jewish guilt, his admiration for the talent of Albert Brooks and Leslie Mann, and how 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?' influenced his writing of the screenplay. We don't get much information on the actual shooting, but Apatow analyzes the script and chats a lot about the personalities involved. The talk tends to meander, but Apatow is a spirited speaker and keeps us involved over the course of the lengthy running time.
- Additional Music by Graham Parker & The Rumour, Graham Parker, and Ryan Adams (HD, 37 minutes) – Five songs by Graham Parker & The Rumour (21 minutes), two solo songs by Parker (6 minutes), and three songs by Ryan Adams (10 minutes) are performed live in an intimate club setting in front of an enthusiastic audience. The tracks can be played individually or consecutively using your remote.
- Deleted Scenes (HD, 36 minutes) – Fifteen cut scenes can be viewed individually or as a continuous group. Some are hilarious, such as Sadie's imitations of various Kardashian family members and the frank dinner table talk between Pete, Debbie, Barb, and Barry, as well as their respective kids. Others are a bit tedious, but considering this compilation runs over a half hour, there's a surprising amount of good material here. Nothing important has been excised, but that doesn't mean the scenes aren't funny. A few of the deletions are high-def exclusives, but unfortunately there's no way to tell which ones are or aren't.
- Gag Reel (HD, 9 minutes) – These flubs and break-ups come in two parts (why?) and include a lot of raunchy comments that - I must admit - heighten the humor. There's also a bit with actress Tatum O'Neal that didn't end up in the finished film. I'm not usually a huge gag reel fan, but some of these mess-ups made me laugh out loud.
- Line-O-Rama (HD, 9 minutes) – These rapid-fire montages, also presented in two parts, show the actors changing up their lines on various takes with typically hilarious results.
The bulk of the supplements are high-def exclusives.
- Documentary: "The Making of 'This Is 40'" (HD, 50 minutes) – Divided into two parts, this comprehensive documentary looks at the genesis of the project, how Apatow's films involve his entire family, the connection of 'This Is 40' to 'Knocked Up,' bringing Graham Parker into the fold, working with Jason Segel, Megan Fox, and Melissa McCarthy, and the execution of a critical stunt. Rehearsal clips, on-set interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, and comments from cast and crew enhance this well-produced piece that, like the movie it examines, is over-long, a tad meandering, a little shallow, but still involving.
- Featurette: "This Is Albert Brooks (At Work)" (HD, 11 minutes) – Apatow talks about writing the role of Pete's dad expressly for Brooks, then being too nervous to ask the actor to play it, while Brooks discusses his attraction to the part, collaborating with Apatow, and the challenges of working with children. Laudatory comments from John Lithgow and Leslie Mann enhance the piece, as well as behind-the-scenes footage of Apatow directing Brooks and fostering a fruitful improvisational atmosphere on the set.
- Featurette: "Graham Parker & The Rumour: Long Emotional Ride" (HD, 17 minutes) – Parker and his musical cronies congregate to talk about their reunion and new album in this intimate featurette. Thirty years after they last played together, the band members went back in the studio, and we witness their recording sessions, learn why The Rumour broke up in 1980, and hear about their newfound musical symbiosis and camaraderie.
- Extended and Alternate Scenes (HD, 18 minutes) – More funny stuff awaits in nine extended/alternate scenes that include some great improvising from all the cast members.
- Brooks-O-Rama (HD, 3 minutes) – A compilation of outtakes showcasing the improvisational genius of Albert Brooks.
- Biking With Barry (HD, 3 minutes) – A similar collection of unused snippets featuring Robert Smigel.
- Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog (HD, 9 minutes) – This strained bit of nonsense features a dog puppet (voiced by Robert Smigel) interviewing Apatow and the cast. The subjects seem to be having a blast, but for the rest of us it's pretty tedious.
- Kids on the Loose (HD, 12 minutes) – This collection of outtakes is like watching someone else's home movies, as it focuses on Maude and Iris Apatow and Leslie Mann.
- Bodies by Jason Commercial (HD, 1 minute) – This mock TV ad spotlights Jason Segal's personal trainer character.
- Audio Interview: "Fresh Air with Terry Gross" (WHYY, Inc.) (44 minutes) – This high-spirited radio interview with Apatow covers, among other things, the director's collaborative relationship with his wife, his creative process, attitude toward fatherhood, penchant for confrontational scenes in his films, admiration for Albert Brooks, and what it's like working with his own children. Apatow is a lively conversationalist and raconteur, and this relaxed, absorbing one-on-one shows off the director's personal side to great effect.
- Ultraviolet Digital Copy – Take 'This Is 40' on the go by downloading it to portable players.
- BD-Live – Players connected to the Internet can access Universal's online portal, where viewers can watch the original theatrical trailer for 'This Is 40,' along with other previews, and chat with friends.
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'This Is 40' may be far from 2012's best comedy, but many aspects of it ring hysterically and brutally true. Writer-director Judd Apatow sprinkles plenty of lowbrow humor across his episodic screenplay, which celebrates the foibles of family life and intimate relationships with underlying warmth, caustic wit, and deceptive insight. Though overlong and occasionally meandering, the film contains just enough comic gems, quirky characters, and nuggets of truth to maintain interest, and benefits from high-spirited performances by a top-notch cast. Universal's Blu-ray features solid video and audio transfers, and a boatload of supplements, many of which increase the laugh quotient exponentially. Even if you don't quite fit the target age range of 'This Is 40,' you'll find this raw, slightly raunchy domestic comedy amusing, relatable, polarizing, and definitely worth a look.
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