This Is 40

Released on December 21, 2012 1 comment

In the excellent “Broadcast News,” a neurotic Albert Brooks (redundant we know,) tries to convince Producer Holly Hunter that William Hurt’s character, the new correspondent in the Washington Bureau, can’t be trusted and might just be the Anti-Christ. His argument is over the top even if his reasoning isn’t. The soothing if somewhat dim-witted Hurt has come to D.C. from the Local ranks. (Something that never sits well with the self-important plebes and gasbags who inhabit Network newsrooms.) In a moment of cutting clarity, Brooks tells Hunter that the reason for his fear of Hurt’s ascendance is that, “little by little, he will slowly lower our standards.”

We thought about that this week, as we prepared to belittle “This Is 40.” We’ve taken our fair share of shots at Writer/Director Judd Apatow, some admittedly harsh, but if you asked what our biggest issue with him was, it would have to parallel the Brooks’ Theory. We’re sure Judd’s a decent sort, but he asks very little of himself, his narratives, and most importantly his movies. Exalting in mediocrity is no way to go through life, and more importantly, is a waste of the great and seemingly endless opportunities he’s been given.

Apatow made his low-brow mark with such fare as “40 Year Old Virgin,” “Superbad,” and “Knocked Up.” His characters take slacker ideals to the extreme, proudly exhibiting a lack of worldliness, shunning curiosity, and most egregiously, bathing in their stupefying blandness.

Fear of women and what they think drives these so-called men to tamp down on anything that comes close to resembling masculinity. Instead they surround themselves with other, like-minded she-males. Apatow’s women are written as unaware and bored, taking a pass on any guy who might call them on their bullshit or shortcomings. Instead, they always choose to walk the plank with one of these wilted losers, as they’re easier when it comes to the control factor.

Have to wonder if Apatow is the offspring of a weak and distant father, and an overbearing and unapproving mother. He’s certainly not the guy we want serving up marital analysis, especially as he approaches his male menopause and midlife anchor crash.

As a film, “40” looks repulsively weak, full of jokes that further serve to brand both sexes as ineffectual and shallow. We really don’t want to hear Leslie Mann tell husband Paul Rudd that she doesn’t feel like having sex because she’s constipated. We also don’t need to see Rudd flashing his naked O-Ring at his wife, claiming, for some reason, that she owes his anus a look because he was present for the birth of their children. This is Apatow’s favorite theme, than men should and can be more like women.

None of it is even close to funny. Pathetic perhaps.

Mann is his real-life wife, and like Tim Burton with Helena Bonham Carter, perhaps hubby makes movies to keep the wife busy, and moderately happy.

Still, we could forgive much of the shortcomings if his cut and paste jobs at least looked good. Apatow has followed the Farelly Brothers blueprint of turning out comedies with sub-par production values. The Brothers got away with it because their first few flicks were mildly amusing, but they haven’t had a decent film in years. And with the exception of a few gags and lame jokes, Apatow’s movies have all been bloated and weak, resembling something done with 60’s editing equipment. They’re lit like fuzzy Rock Hudson Rom-Coms, and deliver about as much sustenance as well.

The Apatow army, (a huge conglomerate of geeky lock-steppers and momma’s boys,) will of course disagree. We hope they enjoy his take on 40, as they are his only chance for a decent opening. When ads pop up every 30 minutes on the USA Network it means the P.R. toads are pushing too hard, and their nitwit bosses already realize they’ve got another flusher in their midst.

  1. randi klein says:

    Have not seen it – don’t want to. It looks trite, predictable, and just not funny. If I had my choice between this an almost anything else, I would pick the later.