Like most Judd Apatow films, This Is 40 takes a couple scenic routes toward the end, but unlike, say, Funny People, the movie doesn’t come to a complete stop and recovers from its missteps pretty quickly. It seems more autobiographical than earlier Apatow flicks, and some of that is cosmetic: His wife (Leslie Mann) has her best role to date, and the filmmaker cast his two daughters (Maude and Iris). Maude, the oldest, is actually pretty damn good.
But This Is 40 really feels autobiographical because of how much the comedy stings; Someone has gone through these things already. That makes the film more relatable and more consistently funny, even if Apatow focuses on minor characters or meandering excursions longer than he should.
The plot is concretely simple: An independent record exec and his wife turn 40 the same week. Pete (Paul Rudd) seems largely OK with it, or at least resigned to it in the way men shrug about circumstances they’d rather not work to overcome. Debbie (Mann) is fighting it tooth and nail. At one point, she lies about her age three separate ways to people in her gynecologist’s office; her gyno helpfully points out he can tell how old she is by counting the rings in her ladyparts.
Apatow has a way of making highbrow comedy sophomoric and vice versa, and that goes a long way in This Is 40. The characters are old enough to know better than to act like children the farther they get from childhood, but, as the saying goes, they’re still too young to care. Albert Brooks is very solid as Rudd’s mooching father, but the rest of the players, including Jon Lithgow and Megan Fox, feel ornamental. That’s fine, primarily because Mrs. Apatow is so fantastic and because so much of this rings true.