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Judd Apatow's latest is nothing new, though it's a treat as far as its Blu-ray presentation is concerned....
Universal / 137 Minutes / 2012 / Unrated / Street Date: March 22, 2013
Judd Apatow is quickly moving into Woody Allen territory. The director’s post-40 Year Old Virgin output has firmly established him as the rom-com auteur of choice, but it has also found him pretty much making the same movie over and over again. I’ll be the first to admit that when it comes to good comedy, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, but with the appearance of This Is 40 on Blu-ray, it feels like Apatow might be becoming trapped by his own cinematic perspective.
I bring this up in a slightly frustrated tone because even after a decade of pretty much treading water as a moviemaker, I think Apatow has the ability to make a great comedy film: I honestly believe he has an Annie Hall somewhere inside him. But as unwaveringly personal as This Is 40 seems, there’s a layer of fat it manifests that hampers major emotional involvement. It’s always good, but it never crosses the line into great.
Our tale at hand follows Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) as they traverse the minefield of domestic life. Both are having trouble at work, their respective in-laws are ‘complicated’ (to be as tactful as possible), and they have two growing girls who have challenges of their own. Throw in the news of – somehow – another pregnancy, and you have This Is 40’s narrative shape in a nutshell.
As dismissive as it sounds, This Is 40 is fine as a romantic comedy. Rudd and Mann have a nice rapport, and Apatow is nothing if not a great cultivator of casting – even marginal appearances from Jason Segel and Chris O’Dowd are welcome (though Lena Dunham’s precious supporting turn here is of the ‘nails on chalkboard’ variety). But Judd has such a unique place and sentiment within the Hollywood machine that I can’t help but wish he’d bump up his game a little. He’s making good money and has his hands in a lot of great projects, but it seems with output like This Is 40 that his main objective isn’t making diamond-perfect films, and while that certainly makes sense in the grand scheme of things, it’s still a shame.