This is 40 isn’t the first movie about the trauma of a birthday with a zero in it. Nor is it the first to look at the concept of a mid-life crisis. But it’s the first movie I can remember where two of the supporting characters from another movie become the central characters in a “sort of sequel” to that movie five years later.
In Knocked Up, “Pete” (Rudd) and “Debbie” (Mann) are married, have kids and Debbie is the BFF of “Alison Scott”, who gets pregnant from a one night stand. That film is about Alison and “Ben Stone”, the guy who knocked her up. In that film, Pete was hiding things from Debbie and now they are the central characters in This is 40… and he’s still hiding stuff.
Both Pete and Debbie are turning 40 within a week of each other and while there will be a big party for his birthday, she refuses to make it a double celebration. In fact, she insists on pretending that it’s her 38th birthday because she’s not ready to be 40. After all, 40 is when you’re supposed to be moving into the “happiest part” of your life and she’s not there yet. Not when there is $12,000 missing from her retail store, she doesn’t know how the family finances are going and she thinks major changes need to be made in how they live so she doesn’t suddenly blink and find herself 90 years old.
The changes don’t go over well with Pete, Debbie or their kids, “Sadie” and “Charlotte” (Apatow’s real kids). There are issues with his father. With her father. There are just a whole lot of issues and those are what Apatow is exploring.
There is funny stuff here. Melissa McCarthy has a small but hysterical role as the parent of one of Sadie’s classmates who has been “defiling” her Facebook page. A new couple is introduced as the friends of Pete and Debbie, “Barry” and “Bob”. Megan Fox has good moments as “Desi”, one of the employees in Debbie’s store. And Jason Segel plays “Jason”, Debbie’s personal trainer with a few good moments of his own.
The attempt is being made to communicate the message that unresolved problems in one generation will just be passed on to the next, but it is made inelegantly and sometimes it feels forced and uncomfortable. Pete and Debbie are very much in love, but also in conflict and that should have been explored in more details.
Nothing earth-shattering here. Lots of laughs and a view of how the 1% or 2% or 5% or however you want to define how people who live “North of Montana” (it’s a Santa Monica thing) fit into the economic strata of the nation. In the end it was fun and funny. It just wasn’t great.