With THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN and KNOCKED UP, Judd Apatow confidently proved that he could make us laugh. (Though fans of cult favorites like "Freaks and Geeks" and HEAVY WEIGHTS already knew that.) FUNNY PEOPLE, however, showed a desire to add a little James L. Brooks-style drama to the formula. And now with THIS IS 40, Apatow moves his comedy in to more personal, even painful territory.
In some ways, this movie is the anti-romantic comedy. It's easy to imagine the prequel set 15 years earlier that focused on Pete and Debbie falling in love, getting married, having a baby—cue Goo Goo Dolls song over the end credits. THIS IS 40 is the Matthew McConaughey nightmare; the realistic version of what really happens years later and the fairy dust has settled and you realize life has gotten in the way of love. I'm a year shy of 30 but a lot of the characters and raw emotions still hit home to an alarming degree.
It's not an easy, carefree watch for the average audience. If you just want to turn off your brain and forget about the real world, this is not the movie for you. It exposes the inexplicable insanity and frustrating selfishness of family life from all sides—the husband, the wife, and even the kids. It's about people getting old and dealing with issues that aren't easily fixed and wrapped up. From daydreams of killing your spouse to wanting to take a bowel movement in peace, it's an honest and bleak portrayal of a relationship evolving in one direction as the people move in another. The only upside is that they're all a lot funnier and more attractive than you.
Most importantly, THIS IS 40 still works as a comedy. The trademark Apatow-style laughs, pop culture references and filthyimprov are there. And even when Paul and Debbie are hating and screaming at each other, Apatow does a good job of making it obvious that they still do love one another. Even if it's buried deep, deep, deep down amongst the resentment. A lot of that is due to the real-life chemistry between Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann, as well as the natural performances by Apatow's daughters Maude and Iris. (Maude, in particular, spends most of the film in hysterics yet still manages to be funny and likable.) There are some small supporting roles from Apatow vets like Jason Segel, Chris O'Dowd and Melissa McCarthy, as well as the always great Albert Brooks, John Lithgow and Megan Fox's Chest. But this is the Paul and Debbie show, so hopefully you like Rudd and Mann.
More than any of Apatow's other films, THIS IS 40 is loosest when it comes to plot. Things move scene to scene with only subplots connecting it together – professional and financial troubles, cross-generational paternal drama, and watching the entire series of "Lost." The episodic nature gives you a nice unfiltered slice of their life, but coupled with the 2+ hour runtime it can feel aimless and self-indulgent occasionally. And when you're constantly watching people air out their baggage, two and a half hours is a long time. But even at length the material had me consistently laughing, so I can't complain too much.
If you own any of Apatow's previous films, you know they always contain a wealth of bonus material and extra footage and THIS IS 40 doesn't disappoint. The Blu-Ray also comes with the Theatrical and Unrated Cut (that only adds a slight three extra minutes).
Commentary with Judd Apatow: The writer director covers pretty much everything here, from the personal nature of the material to the improv mood on set to working with his friends and family. I would've loved to have heard Rudd, Mann and/or the kids on this to get their perspective, but Apatow has no problems carrying it alone.
Deleted, Extended and Alternate Scenes: There's a ton here--nearly an hour. You get more with the Apatow kids, Robert Smigel, Lena Dunham's assistant, Jason Segal's trainer and much more. There's also more on the music side with extra stuff with Billie Joe from Green Day, The Eels and other funny music acts that Rudd encounters via his label. Almost all of it is funny, though obvious as to why it was cut. And if you were hoping for a surprise cameo by Seth Rogen's Ben, sorry.
The Making of THIS IS 40: Another hour-long feature, this behind-the-scenes doc comes across more natural and personal instead of your usual fluff piece. Cast and crew actually take you on to the set to give you a sly-on-the-wall look at the making of the movie.
Fresh Air with Terry Gross: An audio-only interview with Apatow that runs about 45 minutes.
Kids on the Loose: See how Apatow directs his own children on set. Definitely amusing.
Long Emotional Ride: Go behind the scenes as Graham Parker and the Rumour reunite for the film. While I'm sure most of the people watching this have never heard of Parker, if you're a fan you'll love this.
The Music: About half an hour of performances by Graham Parker and Ryan Adams.
This Is Albert Brooks: Brooks is a legend and gets the treatment he deserves from cast and crew… and even himself.
Line-O-Rama: The Apatown staple special feature returns with more alternate takes on some of the film's funniest lines. The best is the colonoscopy.
Brooks-O-Rama: The same as above, but just Albert Brooks.
Gag Reels: This two-part reel is definitely fun to watch, but the best outtake is already in the end credits.
Biking with Barry: A nice focus on the underrated Robert Smigel (TV Funhouse and Triumph Insult Comic Dog).
Triumph the Insult Comic Dog: Everyone's favorite canine puppet takes on the cast and crew. Not one of his funnier efforts, but it's better than poop.
Bodies By Jason: A hokey infomercial starring Jason Segel's trainer character.
The set also comes with DVD and UltraViolet digital copies of the film.
THIS IS 40 is not your standard happy go lucky comedy. It's a natural progression from Judd Apatow following FUNNY PEOPLE—something funny but with a healthy dose of drama and realism on the side. If you're open to that, as opposed to THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN, than I definitely recommend it.
Extra Tidbit: Though Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl's characters are briefly referenced, the only other characters from KNOCKED UP that appear are Jason Segel and Charlyne Yi.