This Is 40, R16, 134 mins
Judd Apatow's prolific directing/producing CV encompasses some triumphs (Anchorman) and some truly unmemorable juvenilia (Pineapple Express, Superbad). While the thankful absence of Jonah Hill and Seth Rogen from the credits tilted expectations towards the former, the advertising poster for this movie, showing Paul Rudd seated on the toilet, tilted it back the other way.
But This Is 40 confounds its publicity by proving a mature, thoughtful and intelligent film: a dark, funny comedy in which most audience members will find some jarring deja vu reflection of their own lives.
Some overseas reviewers didn't like This Is 40's narrow interest in white middle-class life - a misplaced criticism considering it doesn't set itself up to examine anything else. And it does nail the everyday obsessions of the white middle class.
Regular Apatow collaborator Paul Rudd plays a floundering record company boss trying to save his business and his marriage to Leslie Mann in the days leading up to his extravagant 40th birthday party.
Rudd and Mann are brilliantly believable in the lead roles, and Apatow has cast carefully to support them with real characters with their own tales to tell - from Albert Brooks as Rudd's cheerfully feckless father, to John Lithgow as Mann's emotionally absent dad, to Chris O'Dowd as Rudd's gormless offsider; even the usually witless Megan Fox turns up as a vampy shop assistant.
And the kids are brilliant, too. Not content with casting his wife, Mann, Apatow includes daughters Maude and Iris as her screen progeny and they contribute to some brilliant four-handed moments of family life.
The more valid criticism circulating has been that at two hours, 15 minutes, This Is 40 is guilty of aimless indulgence and someone should have stood over Apatow's shoulder with the red pen. And, yes, the final scene doesn't quite deliver the pay-off you might have expected - but when did real life have a neat ending anyway? And with such good writing, genuinely funny dialogue, some clever set-pieces to break the flow and a decent plot, I never noticed how long it took.
- © Fairfax NZ News