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TAC Reviews...This is 40

Date Posted: 25/04/21


Serving as a spin-off to Knocked Up (which I have not seen) This is 40 is a 2012 comedy film directed by Judd Apatow, which stars Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann (Apatows’s real life wife) who return as Pete and Debbie respectfully.


This is 40 Poster


This is one of those films I can easily summarise in three words which would also be a play on the title. This is 40 ­my title This is Shit. However, the review would be rather short if I did that so allow me to tell you what is going on and we’ll go from there. By the way as I have not seen Knocked Up I have no idea if the characters in this (apart from the leads) appeared in that film too.


So is if five years since the events of Knocked Up and Pete owns a record label with Debbie owning a boutique. Debbie is approaching her 40th birthday and is trying to reconnect with her estranged father. She also discovers that someone is stealing from the boutique and her suspicions are focussed on her hotter employee Desi with her other employee Jodi certainly convinced that Desi is the one responsible. Meanwhile, Pete who is also approaching 40, knows that his label is failing as he tries to reunite and promote a CD of Graham Parker and The Rumour. Debbie is also sick of Pete’s father constantly mooching money off of Pete to fund his life with his young wife and three children.


Their two teenage daughters (played by Mann and Apatow’s children) also always seem to be at each other’s throats. If Pete and Debbie cannot find a way to bring their lives back under control then they risk losing their home, their businesses and each other...


Right, now this is yet another of those Friday night films that Abbie made me watch. She said knowledge of Knocked Up was not required, which it wasn’t, but maybe if I had seen that film I would understand why someone might want to see more of Pete and Debbie because as far as I am concerned both Pete and Debbie are horrible, horrible people.


Let’s start with Debbie. She decides that in order to reconnect with her family they need to exercise and restore her relationship with her father. She also puts Pete in the position of having to refuse to give any more money to his emotionally-blackmailing father. She bans Peter from eating sweet and unhealthy foods, but even after she discovers that she is pregnant but keeps sneaking away to have a cigarette whenever the opportunity presents itself. Plus someone on her staff has stole $12,000 from the business and she seems less bothered about finding out who it was and getting the money back than she does bossing her family around. I can only recall seeing Leslie Mann in Cockblockers in which she was working tirelessly to prevent her daughter having sex with her boyfriend on prom-night, the reason you ask, because Mann’s character got pregnant at a young age, and the father buggered off, so she is concerned history will repeat itself and her daughter will also get pregnant. The thing is that her daughter was planning on using protection. In that film Mann’s character is also terrified that her daughter is going to move away and leave her so everything she is doing is based on her own selfish desire to not be abandoned. If that and Debbie are typical of the kinds of characters that she usually plays then I swear the only reason she gets acting jobs is because her husband keeps directing films and putting her in them.


Pete is basically a spineless wimp that lets his Dad constantly use emotional blackmail to control him. It doesn’t matter that Pete and Debbie cannot afford to keep giving Pete’s father money, and they are in danger of losing everything, Pete’s dad is constantly mooching money off them to fund his life. He is afraid his young wife will leave him which is his motivation for mooching, but that is no excuse. Pete also doesn’t seem to have any business savvy as his record label is going down the toilet because he is banking all his financial success on a band he likes but was never hugely popular. He has put his family in the position of being out on the street because he has made one bad decision after another.


You know what I think with the acceptation of Desi (played by Megan Fox) and Oliver (Debbie’s father played by John Lithgow) I think everyone in this film is an asshole. Like I said Pete’s Dad Larry doesn’t care if his son and daughter-in-law lose their home and businesses as long as he gets what he wants. Jason (Debbie’s personal trainer) seems to be endlessly trying to get Debbie into bed, despite knowing that she is married. It turns out that Jodi is the one who has been stealing money and yet she not only blames Desi but tries to weasel out of paying any of it back. It turns out Desi is an escort so she can buy herself nice things because she has a second job which she uses to fund a more lavish lifestyle. There is nothing illegal about being an escort because technically men are paying for her time and if she chooses to have sex with them during that time then that is her choice. She also owns her choice. Yes she isn’t hugely forth coming with the frequency that she escorts but that is her business and none of anyone else’s. Admittedly she has sex with some guy whilst at work which is not exactly professional but she isn’t stealing. After Debbie is able to reconnect with her father after numerous years estranged she discovers that he is just as miserable in his life as she is in hers. He is well-off and offers to help Pete and Debbie out financially, who I’ll remind you, is the only person in the film that tries to help them.


My biggest problem with the film is that it is a two hour waste of time because as far as I could tell nothing is resolved from the opening of credits to the closing off them. Let me demonstrate what I mean:


  1. Pete and Debbie are in danger of losing their home at the start, and they are still at risk of losing it by the end.
  2. Larry is continually mooching off Pete at the beginning, despite their financial troubles, there is no indication that he is going to stop by the end
  3. Debbie wants Pete to tell Larry that he will no longer give him money at the beginning, Pete hasn’t by the end
  4. Pete’s record label is in trouble at the beginning, it still is at the end
  5. Debbie’s boutique had $12,000 stolen from it before the beginning, and nothing at the end suggests that Debbie is doing anything to get that money back by the end
  6. Desi has had sex with at least one random guy whilst at work; she doesn’t get in any trouble for doing that by the end
  7. I could go on and on


Do you see my point? The purpose of a film or TV show or book, or whatever is to show characters moving through a journey. Discovering new things about themselves, or deciding that they are tired with their routine lives and dedicating themselves to making a career or future change. Maybe uncovering a mystery, or getting as many notches on their bedposts as possible.  There have been films in which the point is to show the utter futility of trying to change the world or characters go to Hell and back to save the world. The thing is that even in the worst films SOMETHING, ANYTHING happens which helps to show the characters are in a different place to when they started. To use an earlier example in Cockblockers Mann’s character realises that she has taught her daughter to be careful about sex and use protection to avoid pregnancy, but also that she needs to have her own life away. In This is 40 nothing happens. There is no journey, no changes, nothing that justifies sitting through two hours of horrible people being horrible to one another and wondering why they aren’t happy with their lives. Debbie and Pete should divorce but they don’t. Larry should realise that it is selfish of him to mooch off his son, but he doesn’t. Pete’s record label should be saved, but it isn’t. Jodi should be forced to pay back the money she stole but she is not. It is implied that maybe things will work after the end of the film but I want resolution to the plot points raised in the film not a, meh it probably works out okay in the end, ending


It isn’t all bad, Paul Rudd is as reliable as ever and he did manage to get a few chuckles out of me. Jason (played by Jason Segel) chatting up Desi to the frustration of Pete’s assistant (and nerdy guy) Ronnie (played by Chris O’Dowd) was also a highlight. The trouble was that I strongly disliked just about everyone else in the film, they are all god awful people, and most importantly for a comedy I did not laugh. I chucked a couple of times, but an hour in I paused the film and couldn’t believe there was yet another hour to go, I would honestly have rather sat their pulling my teeth out with a pair of pliers.


It should come as no surprise that my Thumb is squarely Down, even films about horrible people getting their comeuppance or even stitching others up to take the fall for them have a purpose. This is 40 has no purpose, no point, no plot, and nothing that I can recommend. If you like Paul Rudd there are plenty of other films which demonstrate his comic talents, ditto the likes of John Lithgow, Jason Segal and Chris O’Dowd.



3/10 – Paul Rudd gives a decent performance as he normally does, however I would have quite happily taken my disintegrator ray to just about every other character in the film and remove the blight that is their existence from movie history. 


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© Chris Sharman