Judd Apatow, newly 45 years old, isn't aging in place. He's aging behind the screen and on it, through cinematic surrogates.
Five and a half years after delivering "Knocked Up" and introducing the supporting characters of Pete and Debbie (Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann), Mr. Apatow turns them into the main attraction in his big screen comedy "This Is 40."
The married couple are facing 40 in the same week, but Debbie is in deep denial. She works out with a personal trainer, vows she doesn't want to shop at "old lady stores like J. Jill, Chico's and Ann Taylor Loft" and starts to lie about her age, shaving two or four years but sometimes forgetting which date she put down on medical forms.
3 stars = Good
Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann.
R for sexual content, crude humor, pervasive language and some drug material.
Although they live in what we would consider California comfort -- pool included -- their finances are spinning out of control. Pete runs a retro record label, which is bleeding money, and Debbie owns a clothing boutique where $12,000 has gone missing.
They have two bickering daughters, hormonal 13-year-old Sadie (Maude Apatow) and sweet 8-year-old Charlotte (Iris Apatow), and argue about any number of topics from the big ones of money and sex to the frequency and duration of Pete's escapist bathroom breaks, the cash he's been slipping to his remarried dad (the always wonderful Albert Brooks) and assorted differences over diet, music and even medical treatments for childhood ear infections.
Pete and Debbie each are withholding information crucial to the future of their family. Everything builds to Pete's 40th birthday party, where secrets slip out and relationships, including with Debbie's long-absent father portrayed by John Lithgow, are put to the test and toast.
Writer-director Apatow hasn't abandoned his reliance on sex for easy laughs -- the movie opens with a raunchy bit about Viagra. But he relies on his funny facility for tapping into pop culture, referencing such subjects as cable's "Shark Week," ladies man George Clooney, "Glee" and the generational divide between obsessive fans of "Lost" and "Mad Men."
Mr. Apatow, here returning to the LA suburb of Brentwood, is miles literally and figuratively from true middle America but he knows how to make audiences laugh. He also has cobbled together a very cool soundtrack with tunes by Norah Jones, Ryan Adams, Paul Simon, Wilco and the Avett Brothers, among others.
However, he once again allows his movie to go on for 15 minutes too long, stretching the comedy rubber band to the point where it's ready to snap or already has.
Perhaps he's loathe to cut scenes with his wife or their real-life girls -- both acquit themselves well although Sadie is written as too emotional, resorting to the f-word at one point -- or recognizable faces such as Melissa McCarthy, Jason Segel, Lena Dunham, Graham Parker or professional athletes in smaller roles.
He is self-indulgent and mines humor from an adult inappropriately dressing down a clueless teenage boy, but aims for a more mature audience than "Knocked Up," one that can listen to a classroom grandma tell a stricken Debbie, "One day you're gonna blink and you'll be 90," and understand why she slinks off to the car to secretly have a cigarette.
Or why, on the other end of the age equation, she assesses the body of a salesperson played by Megan Fox and says, "I feel bad about myself right now." Just wait till "This Is 50," Debbie.