This review originally appeared in The Big Issue, Edition #423, January 11 2012
Having made his name with adolescent, man-boy comedies like Knocked Up, Judd Apatow has now turned to the struggles of adulthood. A paean to the pains of middle-age, This is Forty shows married couple Pete and Debbie hitting forty amidst a series of crises, grappling with squabbling kids, struggling businesses, and their own fractious relationship.
Apatow may be top dog among Hollywood comedy writers these days, but as a director his work is mostly directionless. He can land a joke on a crude verbal riff, but he can’t make it visually interesting. He does have a gift for casting, though.
Forty is anchored by Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann, and a crew of experienced comedic bit- players, including Albert Brooks. Rudd unleashes his tremendous natural charm, and Mann (Apatow’s real-life wife) has an appealingly thorny edge, but they struggle to make Pete and Debbie’s bickering compelling. Maturity may be his great theme, but Apatow doesn’t possess enough of it himself to make this story feel honest.