Mur­ray daz­zles, movie fiz­zles

Tale of his­toric meet­ing un­der­mined with its por­trayal of FDR as lech­er­ous ma­nip­u­la­tor.

Austin American-Statesman - - D MOVIES & LIFE - Matthew Odam modam@states­man.com Hyde modam@states­man.com contributed by uni­ver­sal pic­tures Forty

The idea of Bill Mur­ray as Franklin De­lano Roo­sevelt may strike some as strange, but the beloved ac­tor’s per­for­mance is one of the most nat­u­ral parts of “Hyde Park on Hud­son.” The film wres­tles with two vastly dif­fer­ent tones and slips into some beau­ti­fully shot melo­drama.

The story traces two of the former pres­i­dent’s im­por­tant re­la­tion­ships as he de­vel­ops a (too) close bond with his cousin, Daisy (Laura Lin­ney), and does some fa­therly men­tor­ing of King Ge­orge VI (Sa­muel West). As he tends to th­ese bud­ding re­la­tion­ships, he also en­dures and charms a host of women, in­clud­ing his med­dling mother, his will­ful wife and a sec­re­tary/lover. De­spite his phys­i­cal lim­i­ta­tions, it seems FDR was a man who got around quite eas­ily.

The re­la­tion­ships with Daisy and King Ge­orge are cul­ti­vated at the up­state New York home of Roo­sevelt’s mother. The pres­i­dent en­joys re­treat­ing to the coun­try manor for re­lax­ation, though his dot­ing mother gives him lit­tle room to breathe.

The pres­i­dent calls on his dis­tant cousin, Daisy, to keep him com­pany.

The trailer and poster for writer-di­rec­tor Judd Apa­tow’s “This Is 40” ad­ver­tise the film as a “sort-of se­quel” to his 2007 film “Knocked Up.” The tag line is a bit of a mis­nomer, part tongue-in-cheek hu­mor and part mar­ket­ing ploy.

The film catches up with Pete (Paul Rudd) and Deb­bie (Les­lie Mann, Apa­tow’s re­al­life wife), the quar­rel­ing cou­ple who served as back­ground characters in the com­edy that starred Kather­ine Heigl and Seth Ro­gen.

But “This Is 40” lacks much of the heart and poignancy of its pre­de­ces­sor, and the film’s main characters don’t en­gen­der as much sym­pa­thy as Heigl and Ro­gen. The vul­gar­ity still ex­ists, and Apa­tow uses it to ex­cess in the first half as he tries to es­tab­lish the film’s comedic bona fides, with lots of bod­ily func­tion jokes.

As with many of Apa­tow’s pro­duc­tions, the 134-minute film strays too far and goes on too long, weld­ing on su­per­flu­ous comedic bits for laughs. The multi-hy­phen­ate Apa­tow is at his best when he in­jects heart into his hu­mor, as with his por­trayal of Steve Carell’s char­ac­ter in “The 40-Year-Old Vir­gin” and the Adam San­dler char­ac­ter in “Funny Peo­ple.”

Apa­tow’s fourth di­rec­to­rial fea­ture at­tempts to mix love and laugh­ter in what is his most per­sonal film to date, but the cen­tral fo­cus of “This Is 40” — the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Deb­bie and Pete — gets mud­died in an­cil­lary story lines.

Both hus­band and wife are cel­e­brat­ing their 40th birthdays in the same week. Pete seems to be han­dling it bet­ter than Deb­bie. Part of the rea­son is be­cause he re­fuses to ac­knowl­edge some of his lin­ger­ing im­ma­tu­rity and the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties he has to his health and fam­ily that come with age. He hides from his wife and kids in the bath­room to play Scrab­ble on his iPad, gorges on cup­cakes and keeps the fam­ily’s fi­nan­cial woes from his wife while in­dulging his mooching fa­ther (a hi­lar­i­ous Al­bert Brooks, the film’s bright­est spot).

Paul Rudd and Les­lie Mann star in “This Is 40,” which catches up with their back­ground characters in the 2007 film “Knocked Up.”

Ni­cola cove / Mct

Bill Mur­ray stars as FDR in Roger Michell’s his­tor­i­cal tale, “Hyde Park On Hud­son.”

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