EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


January 27, 2013

Apatow offers intimate look at messy side of family life

As much as I adore television hit “Modern Family,” the affable sitcom often sidesteps a certain ugliness of family life — the messy little elements that weave themselves into our circadian trials and triumphs, the demanding yet realistic balance of simply getting through the damn day.

“This is 40” nails that. “This is 40” is that messiness, that bitter truth that walks hand-in-hand with everything that’s sweet and simple. Following along a trajectory of soft encounters, funny insights, hard words, volatile arguments and tender embraces, Judd Apatow’s “This is 40” marks an interesting role for the comedic director.

His fourth film is essentially Apatow’s autobiography, kicking the chair out from underneath the so-called stability of domestic life and documenting not only the collapse of the American family system but also its salvation.

Mapping out the daily lives of Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann), the supporting yet scene-stealing married couple from Apatow’s second film, “Knocked Up,” “This is 40” picks up with this family as Pete and Debbie both await their 40th birthdays, occurring in the same week. But this is just a slight arc for the characters to follow, as the film often meanders away from a normal plot direction and simply focuses on the moments.

There are hilarious moments, for sure, as Apatow surely knows how to write a comedic scene. His problem always seems to be of excess, and the only bloated feelings given off by “This is 40” exist in the moments of broad comedy that either run on a bit too long or seem out of place (a lengthy bit with Melissa McCarthy snags a good chunk of running time and feels superfluous throughout). But the moments that count in the film are the ones that illustrate a truly intimate portrait of family life, in all its bad and good.

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