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.
'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.