HOLLYWOOD—Claiming it to be the “sort of sequel to ‘Knocked Up,’” Judd Apatow’s “This is 40” dives into similar aspects of unconditional love that its “sort of” prequel plays on, with the odd complications of unexpected pregnancy being the basis of a lasting relationship.
While “Knocked Up” took focus on the growing relationship of Ben and Allison, who fell victims to the consequences of drinking and sleeping together, “40” looks at a relationship that may be overgrown. The same idea of a seemingly “forced” relationship between Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) was one of an interesting nature in “Knocked Up,” and played a major role of its own in the film, as Pete and Debbie’s comedic style of arguing and fighting gave the younger Ben and Allison apprehension about their situation.
“40” gives Apatow fans the chance to see not only some of their favorite recurrent actors whom he usually casts, but a deep look into this interesting and dynamic relationship between Pete and Debbie that very much deserves a featured story of its own.
Fourteen years prior to the film’s present setting, the couple was bound together by the unexpected birth of their first child Sadie, played by Apatow’s daughter Maude Apatow. Now married and with their second child Charlotte, played by the director’s other daughter Iris Apatow, Pete and Debbie fight to keep their love life alive while discovering ways to strengthen their family in the modern world of technology that seems to pull everyone apart.
The film begins with a disgruntled Debbie’s clear opposition to turning 40, wishing to stay 38 for just one more year, and Pete’s acceptance of this new chapter of their lives as he turns 40 the same week. This dichotomy alone reflects the personality difference between the two that is the root of most of their problems, in that Pete has the go with the flow mentality that Debbie often takes as simply not caring at all. And though most would argue caring is the all time essential characteristic of any relationship, the film ponders the question of how much is too much? Can one love so deeply that passion will explode at the seams and even turn to hate?
The couple confide in one another on their romantic getaway of how they would kill each other, not only confessing that they both have thought about what it would be like, but how they would do it. This is just one of many instances in the film that exposes the interesting and comedic nature of a man and wife who may struggle with the romance factor of their relationship at times, but that there is certain beauty in that kind of level of comfort.
The recurrent sub-textual question of “how close is too close?” is what gives way to making this movie one of Apatow’s raunchier films yet, despite the somewhat deceiving previews that portray the film as more of a feel good romantic comedy. Instances that occur in the couples’ doctor’s office and those in the bedroom will have viewers hysterically laughing while almost simultaneously looking away. In terms of the film’s story arch, the plot is somewhat slow paced; there is a lack of one major conflict and a series of minor ones between the couple and their teenage daughter, who is dealing with her own adolescent issues while they deal with those of their midlife.
Young or old, single or married, happily in love or on the brink of breakup, one will leave the theater appreciative of not only Apatow’s ability to make something like “This is 40” that can shed bright humorous light on a realistically non-humorous situation, but for the reassurance that dysfunction is really just a blessing in disguise.
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