Movie Review: This Is 40

By Matthew Huntley

January 10, 2013

One of the Apatow daughters looks like Drew Barrymore. The other looks like a witch.

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The conflicts in the film revolve around Pete and Debbie as they both turn 40 in the same week. Debbie opts to deny it and tells people she’s actually 38, but not without first smoking a cigarette to mitigate the pain of the truth. Pete is less concerned about his age than his business. He started his own music label and he’s been foolishly banking on Graham Parker’s latest album to secure a big payoff, but when that doesn’t happen, he finds himself approaching financial ruin and is afraid to tell Debbie they may have to sell their upscale Los Angeles home, which, by the way, is large and very well furnished. It’s hard to say where they initially got the money to buy such a house and spoil their two kids - Sadie (Maude Apatow) and Charlotte (Iris Apatow) - with every technology device imaginable, but here they are. Perhaps Debbie’s clothing business, where she employs the sexy Desi (Megan Fox) and introverted Jodi (Charlyne Yi), did really well at one point. Now Debbie thinks one of her employees is stealing from her, a plot development that doesn’t really amount to anything.

The movie as a whole doesn’t really amount to anything, either. Not even the supporting cast helps. Albert Brooks plays Pete’s father, a moocher with triplets who always cons his son into giving him money; and John Lithgow plays Debbie’s dad, who’s always been absent from her life and is just now starting to make an appearance, though he’s finding it may be too late to make up for past mistakes.


Perhaps Apatow thought it was enough to simply watch these people, but it’s not. It’s also not enough that his characters are so pop-culturally aware. They’re always talking about things like movies, TV shows and the latest technology. In fact, the iPhone, iPod and iPad are given so much screen time, I thought maybe I was watching a commercial for Apple. Apatow probably figured we’d relate better to the characters if they referenced to and used the same things we do, but I think this will only end up showing the movie’s age a few years down the road.

Normally filmmakers who write themselves into their movies provide a conduit that makes the material just as meaningful to the audience, but the people and world of This Is 40 are too exclusively Apatow-ish. Without some sort of accessibility, I felt left out, and therefore didn’t really care about what I was watching. Apatow is undoubtedly a smart man and he must know a lot about many things, so I encourage him to keep writing about what he knows, but it’s high time he write about something besides his personal life. After four movies, we’ve been down that road too many times.

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