"This is 40" Earns Apatow Even More Fans

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A 2012 comedy film written, co-produced and directed by Judd Apatow, This Is 40 takes a look at the lives of Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) a few years after the events of Knocked Up.
Photo Credit: Univeral Pictures
January 11th, 2013

"This is 40" Earns Apatow Even More Fans

Judd Apatow started his career as a director and producer with an interest in comedy. After writing and producing the Jim Carrey vehicle "The Cable Guy," he took a step back from Hollywood. Reviews for the film were so dismal that he decided to take a break and focus on what he found most enjoyable. Thankfully for audiences, that break let him create stellar films like "This is 40."

During his break from film, Apatow created the cult television shows "Undeclared" and "Freaks and Geeks." He then took back Hollywood by directing the films "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy," "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," and "Knocked Up." While working on the set of "Knocked Up," he noticed the chemistry between Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd, both of whom played supporting characters. After several years, he decided to give the two their own film, "This is 40."

Apatow has a close relationship with Mann. The two met while working on "The Cable Guy" and began dating. The director specifically created roles for the actress in several of his films, and the two married and had two daughters. When working on the script for "Knocked Up," he frequently thought about his wife for the role of Debbie, but he admits that he was surprised when she auditioned for the role. He loved her performance, which inspired him to write the sequel, and he also cast their daughters as Mann's children in the film.

As soon as the film landed in theaters, critics began giving "This is 40" positive reviews. "Rolling Stone" critic Peter Travers praised the film, saying that the comic scenes cut right to the heart of married life. A critic from the "Chicago Tribune" also gave the film a favorable review. Michael Phillips praised the work of Mann, finding her the highlight of the film. He also enjoyed the ever charming Rudd's performance as Pete, claiming that the actor can do almost anything and still make it look funny.

The film is also praised for its supporting cast. Melissa McCarthy ("Bridesmaids") plays a crazed mother, while John Lithgow ("Third Rock from the Sun") stars as Debbie's dad who cannot connect with his daughter. Comic legend Albert Brooks ("The In-Laws") also drew some praise for his role as Larry, Pete's father who continually asks his son for money and support.

Some reviews note that some of the jokes hit home a little too closely, and a few critics wondered if Apatow based the film off of his own experiences. Debbie and Pete have a clearly antagonistic relationship, and Debbie frequently comes across as a hard woman who has no love or respect for her husband. That issue comes up early in the film when she interrupts their first night alone in months to complain about something he did earlier in the day.

Not everyone found the film entertaining, and some critics were not fond of some of the background actors in the film. Megan Fox in particular received some harsh criticism. The actress appears as a young woman working in a store owned by Debbie, and her role primarily serves to remind Debbie of what she once looked like and what life was like before children. Those who enjoyed "Knocked Up" wondered why Apatow didn't bring back more of the characters from that film, especially its likeable leads Katherine Heigl and Seth Rogan.

Many of the critics claimed that the film didn't feel as new or as fresh as some of the director's previous films. Apatow often relies on tired jokes and punchlines that viewers have heard dozens of times in other films. He leaves much of the work on the actors' shoulders, hoping that they can draw laughs from unfunny jokes. A few of the scenes harp on the same jokes such as his daughter's obsessive interest in a television show. The jokes are funny the first few times, but the humor quickly dissipates as Apatow goes back to the well.

Despite a few complaints, "This is 40" generally received positive reviews. Legendary critic Richard Roeper praised Mann and Rudd, while wishing that Apatow cut out some of the supporting characters. Critic Drew McWeeny found that this was the first of Apatow's films that fans of all ages could relate to and enjoy, and Germain Lussier claimed that the film had a number of laughs. "Movie City News" critic David Poland also lauded the film for effortlessly mixing drama and comedy.

Fans are equally excited about the film. "This is 40" grossed $12 million in its opening weekend, and it hit $36 million by the end of its second weekend, despite competition from "Jack Reacher" and "The Hobbit." With fans lining up in droves, "This is 40" is a hit no matter what critics say.