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Eleanor Ringel Cater

‘This is 40’ – a movie about Hollywood where being 40 is being over the hill

By Eleanor Ringel Cater

“This Is 40” isn’t the worst movie I’ve ever seen, but it’s certainly somewhere within that black hole’s gravitational pull.

Writer/director Judd Apatow calls it a sort-of sequel to “Knocked Up.” Translation: Katherine Heigl and Seth Rogen’s characters aren’t even mentioned as far as I remember.

Our leads now are Pete and Debbie, played so amusingly in the first film by Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann (Mrs. Apatow in real life).

Now, I had saved this movie as a special treat. The prospect of an entire film built around the appealing and talented Mann and Rudd sounded irresistible. And the previews ranged from smart-funny to “There’s Something About Mary” outrageousness.

It seemed, as we in the review biz call it, a sure thing.

Well, remember that other sure thing, “TomKat?”

“This is 40” should be titled “This is 40 in Hollywood” where being over 30 is something akin to having one-foot-in-the-grave. (And I am stretching that for women).

Hollywood’s obsession with looks, youth, money, youth, money, looks …. Do we sense a trend?…shot past appalling a long time ago. Skirt-chasing moguls with racehorses, gold-plated Rolls and imported cigars seem almost quaint in comparison to New Hollywood — or is that Newer Hollywood?

High tech and low taste have combined to create a monomaniacal monster where vulgarity, violence and superfluous sexuality are the norm — in real as well as reel life.

The good news about “This is 40?” No one is blown up. No small children are buried. The Kardashians do not show up. Neither does Honey BooBoo.

Otherwise, all bets are off.

As you may or may not remember, Rudd and Mann play a long-married couple with two daughters (competently played by Apatow and Mann’s real children). Apparently, it’s mid-life crisis time: she’s freaked about her birthday; he’s freaked about his failing record company; they’re both freaked about their barely-there sex life.

For the next 134 minutes — that’s two hours, 14 minutes — we watch this family flounder. And flounder and flounder some more. Whatever spark of humor or insight the script manages, you’ve already seen in the trailers.

The overall tone is unpleasant. Resentments and recriminations, insecurities and insults. To Apatow’s credit, he’s trying to be honest here. But the dailiness of a successful Hollywood player just isn’t in the same universe as the rest of us. Even the better-off of the rest of us.

One of Ingmar Bergman’s most scorching movies (ironically, I mentioned it last week) is called “Scenes from a Marriage.”

“This is 40” is Scenes from a Sitcom Marriage.

Eleanor Ringel

Eleanor Ringel, Movie Critic, was the film critic for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for almost 30 years. She was nominated multiple times for a Pulitzer Prize. She won the Best of Cox Critic, IMAGE Film & Video and Women In Film awards. An Atlanta native, she graduated from Westminster and Brown University. She was the critic on WXIA’s Noonday, a member of Entertainment Weekly's Critics Grid and wrote TV Guide’s movie/DVD. She is member of the National Society of Film Critics and currently talks about movies on WMLB and writes the Time Out column for the Atlanta Business Chronicle.



  1. margiedempsey333 January 2, 2013 11:42 am

    Thanks, Eleanor. I just turned 50 four days ago and the folks in this movie (the trailer, anyway) look like they’ll skip past the learning curve of aging and go right to their respective nursing homes with all the unfulfilled expectations of 16-year-olds.Report


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