'This Is 40' Review: A Little Heavy on the White Wine

Thu Dec 20, 2012 5:16pm EST
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By Alonso Duralde

LOS ANGELES (TheWrap.com) - Judd Apatow's "Funny People" starred Adam Sandler as George Simmons, a once-dynamic stand-up whose comic mojo has grown bloated and blunted after starring in a series of hit movies and ensconcing himself in a luxurious mansion.

Apatow's latest, "This Is 40" - about the financial and romantic foibles of a well-off couple hitting a milestone birthday - feels like George might have written it, or at least directed it.

The bawdy wit and crisp dialogue that were the hallmark of Apatow's "Knocked Up" (of which this is a quasi-sequel) and "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" are still very present, but the conflicts feel so cushy, so first-world, that one gets the impression that the filmmaker is losing touch with life as it is lived outside of Brentwood.

Not that the wealthy and the privileged can't have problems of their own, or can't be the subjects of drama, but when characters who drive BMWs, hang pricey contemporary art throughout their spacious house, go on spa weekends, cater lavish parties and have a seemingly endless supply of Sprinkles cupcakes in their kitchen, it's a little hard to be sympathetic when those same characters wail about their money woes.

I was reminded more than once of "Spanglish" (also, coincidentally, starring Sandler), another frustrating movie about privileged L.A. folk, a film that made me want Cher's character from "Moonstruck" to suddenly manifest so she could smack all the characters in the face and say, "Snap out of it!"

"Knocked Up" sideline characters Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann, Apatow's wife) return, facing the big 4-0 among other challenging issues in their life. Pete left his gig at Sony a few years ago to start an indie label for niche acts, and after shelling out for a new album by Graham Parker (playing himself throughout, with good cheer), the record's not selling.

Debbie's boutique (selling what the ladies of "Absolutely Fabulous" would call "gorgeous things") has a $12,000 shortfall, although she's so obsessed with her age that she never seems all that upset about the missing cash. (Again, these are very niche economic problems.)

While Pete tries to figure out how he can avoid losing the house, while still giving money to his dad (Albert Brooks), Debbie avoids telling her husband the bombshell news that she's pregnant. Meanwhile, their young daughters (played by Mann and Apatow's kids, Maude Apatow and Iris Apatow) are constantly squabbling, and Pete and Debbie find it tricky to lay down the boundaries when they've got vices of their own. (Debbie still secretly stress-smokes; Pete can't stop eating those cupcakes.)   Continued...

Writer/director/producer Judd Apatow arrives with his family and cast members (L-R) Iris Apatow, Maude Apatow and Leslie Mann at the premiere of the movie "This is 40" at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California December 12, 2012. REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon