Between reality television, politics and Internet comment sections, our culture accepts the constant presence of bickering in the background, but director Judd Apatow's “This Is 40” turns up the volume and puts the viewer in the middle of a long, meandering marital squabble. When they were secondary characters in 2007's “Knocked Up,” Pete and Debbie (Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann) offered interesting insights into the difficulties of marriage, but when put center stage in “This is 40,” this Los Angeles couple's backbiting grows ugly and tiresome. It's not that Apatow doesn't have a point about midlife struggles, but he just does make that point strongly in “This is 40.”
Conflict abounds and the problem in the foreground is money. Debbie and Pete are long accustomed to being affluent, but Pete doubled down on the music industry after leaving Sony Music, and has discovered that the musicians he grew up loving, like British pub-rock legend Graham Parker, can only be depended on to sell hundreds of records, not thousands. Meanwhile, Debbie's boutique is hemorrhaging money and she suspects that one of her employees, either Desi (Megan Fox) or Jodi (Charlyne Yi) is ripping her off. That fiscal tension just feeds the ugliness at home, and when daughters Sadie and Charlotte (Maude and Iris Apatow) join the fray, the house is practically shaking from the bad vibes.
Apatow does explain many of Pete and Debbie's problems by introducing their fathers (Albert Brooks and John Lithgow, respectively), and it makes perfect sense — distant or ineffectual parenting of the magnitude portrayed by both Brooks and Lithgow would throw anyone out of whack. But these revelations hardly justify the prolonged harangues that precede them. Fortunately, Apatow himself can be a saving grace on the Blu-ray — his commentary is thoroughly enjoyable, as is the inclusion of an interview with NPR's Terry Gross. But the inclusion of extended scenes in this edition of “This is 40” will make almost anyone feel the sudden onset of age.
— George Lang