Review: Inconsistent 'This is 40' is by the numbers

05:00 AM, Dec 22, 2012

Pete (PAUL RUDD), left, and Debbie (LESLIE MANN) in a scene from the motion picture 'This Is 40,' an original comedy from writer/director/producer Judd Apatow that expands upon the story from the blockbuster hit 'Knocked Up' as we see first-hand how they are dealing with their current state of life. HANDOUT Photo by Suzanne Hanover [Via MerlinFTP Drop] (Suzanne Hanover)/

Written By Claudia Puig | USA Today

Give it plenty of points for brutal honesty.

But This Is 40 could have used more laughs — especially knowing it was written and directed by film comedy master Judd Apatow. Given the comic timing of the charming lead actors in this sequel of sorts to 2007’s hilarious Knocked Up, expectations are high. Instead, the comedy in this rambling semi-autobiographical account is uneven.

The movie is not so much a cohesive story as a collection of ideas that fall under the overarching theme: marriage in middle age.

Ostensibly it covers a week in the life of Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann), who have two bright daughters, Sadie (Maude Apatow) and Charlotte (Iris Apatow), a beautiful home and more fortune than most. But under the glossy veneer, there are problems.

It’s a dicey proposition to make a privileged life seem relatable. The complicated problems involving their aging parents and clashes with their children are more universal issues.

Dicier still is humorously documenting the annoyances that rankle every married couple. Better are the more human moments that get funnier in their absurdity.

In one of the more humorous segments, they learn that their daughter is being harassed on Facebook by a boy in her class. This leads to a cringingly funny altercation between Debbie and the boy’s mom (Melissa McCarthy). Some improvisation is woven into the story, and Mann, Rudd and McCarthy are masters at it.

There are moments of perception and sweetness, as is usual in Apatow movies.

It’s just too bad the movie’s trajectory is formless and jokes built around petty marital resentments sometimes fall flat.