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This is a shrill, empty, tone-deaf disaster
Apatow effort offers shallow view of aging with few laughs
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Paul Rudd, left, and Chris O'Dowd appear in a scene from the film, "This is 40." - photo by Suzanne Hanover

‘This Is 40’

Starring: Leslie Mann, Paul Rudd, Megan Fox, Jason Segel, Chris O’Dowd

Rated: R, for sexual content, crude humor, pervasive language and some drug use

Runtime: 2 hours, 13 minutes

Bottom line: This is terrible

“This Is 40” is among the worst movies bearing the name of writer/director Judd Apatow. And that is really saying something.

I don’t just mean the films Apatow has directed (“The 40-Year Old Virgin,” “Knocked Up,” “Funny People”), all of which I have liked. I mean this is as bad as any film Apatow has had anything to do with.

That puts “This Is 40” in a category with “Year One,” “You Don’t Mess With the Zohan” and “Wanderlust.”

“This Is 40” revives secondary characters from “Knocked Up,” a family of four who provided a grounding in reality in the former film. Here, they are completely out of touch.

Pete (Paul Rudd) started his own record label a few years ago, and it’s failing. Debbie (Leslie Mann, Apatow’s real wife) owns an upscale clothing boutique which is also doing badly. Their marriage is dysfunctional and Debbie is struggling with turning 40.

The movie is clearly an attempt to examine in a comedic way many of the common problems people experience around that seminal birthday.

But this is a family that creates its own problems.

Pete has placed the entire future of his company, an indie label housed in a needlessly large and costly office space, on Graham Parker (playing himself), who was once influential but now has a small and dwindling following. And Parker is apparently the only artist on Pete’s label.

Pete and Debbie have loads of marital problems, too, all of which could be solved by an honest conversation and some scaling down of their lifestyle.

See, Pete doesn’t tell Debbie about his business problems or that they need to sell their house, which must be worth at least half a million dollars. Then, they go to a posh resort for a weekend getaway, get high and order a feast from room service.

Wow, clearly times are hard.

I can only conclude that Apatow and company have grown completely out of touch with the problems of normal people, because I haven’t seen a movie this tone deaf since “Sex and the City 2.”

Pete and Debbie’s daughters, played by Apatow’s and Mann’s real daughters, Maude and Iris, are somewhat more sympathetic, only because they are cursed with two self-centered idiots for parents.

This is 134 minutes of screeching. The movie consists mostly of shrill, inane arguments. More than one scene devolves into four actors screaming at each other nonsensically.

They occasionally hit on something that resembles real marriage and seem to be headed toward exploring a truth about middle age. Don’t fall for it.

This is an empty movie. Each time they meander near a truism, they quickly scurry back toward pointlessness.

Mercifully, Chris O’Dowd and Lena Dunham contribute some funny scenes as Pete’s employees.

In fact, in one scene O’Dowd’s character berates Pete, telling him to stop complaining about his financial problems because he created them himself. O’Dowd delivers the lines hilariously, and his character says exactly what we’re thinking.

However, the scene unintentionally undercuts the entire movie because Pete never admits his own faults. Nor does Debbie.

This is needlessly gross.

So many body jokes. Among other affronts, there is a montage of medical exams. Debbie gets a gynecological exam. A doctor examines Pete’s prostate. Debbie gets a colonoscopy, and they show us what the probe sees.  Seriously, do I need to see the inside of someone else’s digestive tract?

I get it. These are all facts of growing older. But the movie dwells on the icky, sticky details so much it’s like a 12-year old boy making a movie about middle age.

Pete and Debbie never learn from their mistakes, the movie never says anything valuable about life at 40, and I laughed maybe three times in 134 minutes.

That is a failure by anyone’s standards. What a shameful excuse for a movie.

Jeff Marker teaches film and literature at Gainesville State College. His reviews appear weekly in Get Out and on gainesvilletimes.com/getout.

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