‘This Is 40’ forces in plenty of jokes

Forty

Austin American-Statesman - - AUSTIN360 DAILY - Con­tin­ued from D Iris Apa­tow, Maude Apa­tow, Paul Rudd and Les­lie Mann star in “This Is 40.” Contributed by uni­ver­sal pic­tures Con­tact Matthew Odam at 912-5986.Twit­ter: @odam

Deb­bie, mean­while, re­fuses to ac­cept her ag­ing for dif­fer­ent rea­sons. She makes her fam­ily put a “38” can­dle on her birth­day cake and lies to her doc­tors and nurses about her age. But if they are go­ing to face the in­evitable, Deb­bie wants Pete to join her in what are sup­posed to be the best years of their lives. She has made a list of the things they need to work on to in­crease their in­ti­macy and im­prove their re­la­tion­ship. Pete re­sponds with in­dif­fer­ence to her self-help doc­trine, and you can feel the ten­sions sim­mer­ing.

Those ten­sions and the way the cou­ple talk about them — com­i­cally and se­ri­ously — give the movie its heart, but Apa­tow is eas­ily dis­tracted by the de­sire to cram in more jokes. There are the tech­nol­ogy-ad­dicted and ad­dled daugh­ters, Sadie and Char­lotte (played by Apa­tow and Mann’s pre­co­cious chil­dren Maude and Iris); there is the sub­plot of em­ploy­ees (Char­lyne Yi and Me­gan Fox) at Deb­bie’s store steal­ing from the reg­is­ter; and there is the thread that fol­lows in­die record la­bel owner Pete as he tries to re­vive the ca­reer of Gra­ham Parker.

When Pete talks to his friend Barry (Robert Smigel) about the fan­tasy of his wife dy­ing so that he may start a new life as a wid­ower, he is only halfkid­ding. And the story gets to the heart of the cou­ple’s trou­bles. Af­ter all th­ese years, maybe they sim­ply don’t like each other as much as they once did. Maybe the mar­riage has be­come more of a yoke and less of a buoy. Pete and Deb­bie ac­knowl­edge this in some stir­ring out­bursts, but the is­sues that arise are soon dis­missed for an­other tangent or re­solved with a kicker joke to the end scene, a de­vice re­peated through­out the movie.

The most tire­some part of the story is try­ing to muster the en­ergy to feel bad (or good) for Pete and Deb­bie. While rich peo­ple de­serve sym­pa­thy as much as any­one, see­ing a cou­ple in a mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar home and com­plain­ing about fi­nan­cial trou­bles while con­stantly bick­er­ing with one an­other can be ex­haust­ing in­stead of re­lat­able. The tone is made even more con­fused by the fact that Mann and Rudd (and Apa­tow) are all ex­tremely lik­able, mak­ing the en­ter­prise feel like an elab­o­rate put-on and a sendup of up­per-class Brent­wood neu­roses and less of a nu­anced por­trait of the dif­fi­cul­ties of main­tain­ing a fam­ily.

Two sub­plots, how­ever, add di­men­sion to the cou­ples’ trou­bles. Pete has to suf­fer through his dad’s self-pity and freeload­ing, while Deb­bie at­tempts to con­nect with an aloof fa­ther ( John Lith­gow in strong, dead­pan elit­ist form) whom she has not seen in seven years. Un­for­tu­nately, those sto­ry­lines get rushed into a sloppy res­o­lu­tion near the end.

“This Is 40” does have some mem­o­rable comedic se­quences, two of the best in­volv­ing Melissa McCarthy (“Brides­maids”) as the mother of one of Sadie’s school­mates, and satiric jabs at self­in­volved post-punk yup­pies land with deft­ness. The am­bling struc­ture of the film feels suit­able for a movie that plays like a big-bud­get home pro­duc­tion (com­plete with the en­tire Apa­tow clan), but all of the me­an­der­ing and shoe­horned jokes and one­lin­ers con­trast with that real­is­tic tone. The movie may be Apa­tow’s most per­sonal, but it’s also his most un­wieldy. Life may have room for this many ob­ses­sions, fights, tan­gen­tial ideas, in­se­cu­ri­ties, im­ma­ture jokes and random characters, but great movies rarely do.

Rat­ing: R for sex­ual con­tent, crude hu­mor, per­va­sive lan­guage and some drug ma­te­rial. Run­ning time: 2 hours, 14 min­utes. The­aters: Alamo Slaugh­ter, Alamo Vil­lage, Barton Creek, Cine­mark Cedar Park, Cine­mark Gal­le­ria, Cine­mark Round Rock, Cine­mark Stone Hill, Cine­mark South­park Mead­ows, City Lights, Flix Brew­house, Gate­way, Galaxy Moviehouse, High­land, Starplex, Tin­sel­town Pflugerville, Tin­sel­town South, West­gate.

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