Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd reprise their Knocked Up roles as Debbie and Pete, a ridiculously-charming-because-of-their-flaws pair of married suburbanites each on the brink of turning the big 4-0 and trying to cling, however precariously, to their youthful ambitions and their hot-and-cold relationship. Their daughters, Sadie and Charlotte (Mann and Apatow’s real-life daughters, Maude and Iris Apatow), are simultaneously exasperating and adorable; their friends (among them, Jason Segel, Annie Mumulo and Robert Smigel), trying to navigate relationships of their own; and their respective fathers (John Lithgow, Albert Brooks), both portraits of aging men struggling with AARP-dom and the trials of blended families.
What unfolds is less a singular narrative arc than a series of vignettes and happenings that chronicle Debbie and Pete’s somewhat circuitous journey from driving each other nuts, to falling back in love with each other, to verging on divorce… and back again. She’s juggling a clothing shop, her kids’ school-related angst and a fear of getting older; he’s panicked about his record company going bankrupt, his life devolving into financial despair and the realities of an increasingly tense marriage.
Thanks to the brilliant leads – both of whom are fabulous, deliver terrific performances and are blessed with kick-ass chemistry – there’s an authenticity and, for lack of a better word, naturalness to the proceedings, feelings and behavior on display. Pete flip-flops between apathetic and angry; Debbie moves between sadness, euphoria and rage. And all of it smacks of (infused-with-humor) truth, and both Mann and Rudd deliver some unexpectedly moving work.
The only real downside to This is 40 is its needless tangential storylines and characters. Jason Segel serves exactly no purpose in the film and, for the most part, neither does Megan Fox. The movie would be just fine without both of them. And don’t get me started on Charlene Yi – we get it. You’re “quirky and odd”! Enough, already. All three characters could have been cut altogether in order to shave a good 20 minutes off the admittedly beefy running time (roughly two hours and 15 minutes).
That said, special mention must be made of Melissa McCarthy, whose fantastic extended cameo provides some of the biggest laugh-out-loud moments in the film. Stay for the credits, too – you won’t be sorry!