Film Review: This Is 40



   130 minutes into Judd Apatow's latest life-sapping and unpleasant movie, This Is 40, it's hard not to take solace in the fact that his one man reign of terror over the American comedy scene must surely, inevitably, be drawing to a welcome end. Yet, much like his film's running times, I do fear that Apatow has no qualms with considerably overstaying his welcome - a more suitable title for this release would be, as some wise people have already suggestedThis Is 40 Minutes Too Long.

   The problem with many of Apatow's features, and in particular this one, is his preference for sculpting plots many critics refer to as "dramedies" - a portmanteau, of course, of "drama" and "comedy". In the good old days of Billy Wilder and movies such as The Apartment, this genre was simply known as "a film". And, in comparing Wilder and Apatow, it's easy to see why the contemporary director fails so miserably in comparison to his artful predecessor.

   Wilder, one of Hollywood's true greats, made a career of successfully seaming together moments of great hilarity with, and often within, profound scenes casting great insight into the human soul. As Jack Lemmon goofs around with his runny nose, failing to woo Shirley MacLaine's chic but tragic elevator operator we laugh at Lemmon with detached dramatic irony; we laugh with him and his unfettered idealism; we swoon as he swoons; our hearts soften as his hardens with resolve. There's a clean flow across the film which makes the journey, that of both the character and the narrative, such a smooth and rewarding ride which is worth revisiting time and time again.

   Apatow, however, seems to have no clear idea on how to mesh his comedy with his dramatic developments and often his features feel like two separate movies, one relating to each of the aforementioned genres, haphazardly slung together. As such, in This Is 40, toilet humour rubs brashly against scenes relating to domestic strife caused, in part, by financial woes with the fluidity of sand-paper. Whilst this jarring effect may have been lessened if the jokes were laugh out loud funny, what we have instead is a pair of leads (played by Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann) who are deeply unlikable, narcissistic bullies - we're invited to laugh as they both mock the accent of an Indian man (he speaks English but he's not from America LOL!) or when one invites the other to check out their anal swellings. It's unpleasant, bullying stuff with most of the humour in This Is 40 punching aggressively, unashamedly downwards.

   Normally in my reviews I give a brief overview of the film's synopsis but here, it hardly seems worthwhile - two adults act increasingly unpleasant as middle age is about to enter their over-privileged lives whilst the audience has to bear the brunt of their self and mutual loathing for the course of more than two whole sour hours. It's as fun and dramatic as it sounds i.e. not at all. It's a "dramedy" which lacks drama and comedy in equal measure, a shameful piece of substandard film-making from a man old enough to know better.
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