This is 40 (***)

Something has happened to Judd Apatow since he busted onto the scene with The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005).  Apatow has never had a real problem with entertaining and his writing has always been at the very least average to say the least if at times juvenile or unfocused.  In his newest film This is 40, the sort-of-sequel to his hit-film Knocked Up (2007), Apatow presents his most matured outing as a writer and director to date.  Perhaps it was the already made foundation from his previous film and the characters Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann), whatever it is, This is 40 very successfully encapsulates marriage and life in a tender and comedic way.  It’s one of the 2012’s great surprises.

The film continues the story of Pete and Debbie years after the events of Knocked Up.  Debbie is having a hard time with turning 40-years-old along with other changes while Pete, who’s birthday is within days of her, is attempting relentlessly to keep his record label afloat.   What Apatow does exceedingly well here is no matter how you may feel about him and his previous efforts; Apatow makes films that connect with an audience.  He crosses the line from raunchy comedy to an even more surprising intensive look into marriage and life at 40.  It’s completely relatable.  But like all Apatow comedies, the film is far too long and while it hits its stride nice and early, mid-experience the story slows down significantly and actually becomes a little coy in hitting the glory notes of a cinematic song.  Not quite bound together the way a comedy should be at times.

Leslie Mann emerges as the heart and soul of the picture, showcasing her greatest comedic talents while holding onto the dramatic elements of Debbie.  As she stole the film from Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl last time around, Mann is finally given a real opportunity to extend her acting legs and helm a film the way she knows how.  Debbie has flaws, annoying ones that could get under your skin, perhaps if you’re a husband but Mann approaches her character again with raw sincerity.

Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann recapture their chemistry…

Standing next to Mann is Paul Rudd, an actor that seems to either have been ill-advised with his choices in film roles or one of the many instances when talent doesn’t elevate an actor to stardom.  In this sequel, Rudd is more reserved, connected to the source material, and contained within the realms of the cinematic dramedy.  It’s one of his better acting accomplishments in his career.

One thing that Judd Apatow has excelled in his past efforts and does again here, is his assembly of talented actors and allowing them to all have integral parts in his movies.  Academy Award Nominee Albert Brooks, recently snubbed last year for Drive (2011), returns to his roots of comedy in a scene-stealing turn that stands as one of the actor’s best.  Many of the films biggest laughs come from Brooks moment after moment.   Chris O’Dowd and Jason Segel bring laughs in their smaller roles while Apatow and Mann’s daughters Iris and especially Maude round out an accessible and believable family.  Megan Fox, eh hem, utilizes her “talents” the way you expect someone of her caliber to do in a film like this but it’s John Lithgow that brings a calm presence and class to his role.

On technical merits, composer Jon Brion’s score is one of the year’s best in the comedy genre.  Fiona Apple’s “Dull Tool,” the original song represented in the film, is clever and impeccably timed.  It’s a contemporary thematic record that proves Fiona Apple’s quirky talent as teamed up with Brion is still music’s great additions.

This is 40 is incredibly ambitious though it does falter and misstep in places.  What the film will likely do is continue to give Apatow a chancesto keep maturing and elevate his writing and direction in more brave and daring pictures.  It’s incredibly funny and shockingly sensitive and with an open-mind be especially satisfying to any movie-goer.  A true gem and utterly entertaining.

Visit the Official Site: http://www.thisis40movie.com/

Check out the Full Trailer for the Film:

Also, Listen to Fiona Apples’s “Dull Tool” from the Film: