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Capone says Judd Apatow's honest and funny THIS IS 40 gets the details right!!!

Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.

When you strip away the jokes (and I'm not suggest in any way that you do that; the film is extraordinarily funny), THIS IS 40 is about the results of bad parenting and the daily struggle not to be a bad parent. Both lead characters, Pete and Debbie (Paul Rudd and Apatow's real-life wife Leslie Mann), supporting players in Apatow's KNOCKED UP, come from broken homes. Pete's father (played magnificently by Albert Brooks) is a world-class mooch, borrowing tens of thousands of dollars from his son so he can support his relatively new family that includes triplet toddlers. He levels guilt trips on his son that belong in the hall of fame for guilt trips (I firmly believe such a place exists). While Debbie's long-absent dad (John Lithgow) left when she was young and has made infrequent stops into her life every seven or eight years. Amid all of the spousal dismay over money, sex, aging, child rearing, etc., it's the details about these parent/grown child relationships that I found myself most drawn into.

Pete and Debbie seem to life a fairly comfortable California life. Peter has moved on from the record label he used to work for to starting his own retro-focused indie label (with co-workers like Lena Dunham and Chris O'Dowd, you could work in a worse place). He's recently arranged to put out the new album by the reunited Graham Parker and the Rumor, and it's not exactly setting the world on fire. Still, the jokes at Parker's expense are pretty hilarious. Debbie owns a clothing boutique, staffed by the likes of Charlyne Yi and Megan Fox, but Debbie suspects one of them has been stealing a whole lot of cash from the business.

Pete and Debbie still have two daughters (played by Apatow siblings Maude and Iris), and what's fascinating to notice is how different the girls' senses of humor are from each other. The older, Maude, is becoming a great actress; her tantrums laced with every four-letter word in the book are the stuff of legend. While Iris is more the straight-up joke teller. But their personal dramas (school bullies, living without certain technology to help the family save money) are in many ways a reflection of what is going on between their parents, who seem to bob and weave between deep understanding and affection for each other and outright rage.

THIS IS 40 is peppered with wonderful lines that seem to sum up their relationship for better or worse. A pillow talk moment where both agree that Pete is a dick. ("People think I'm so nice, but I'm such a dick," Pete says with a knowing grin.) Or the dismissive way Debbie talks about Pete when a girlfriend wonders if Debbie is worried about having the Megan Fox character work in such close proximity to her husband. "He wouldn't know what to do with that," she counters. Ouch! It's bizarre that a conversation Pete has with his best friend (Robert Smigel) about fantasizing about their wives dying (peacefully, of course) is one of the least disturbing moments in the movie.

But the film succeeds and shows Apatow maturing as a filmmakers through smaller, more dramatic scenes such as Debbie trying in a small way to seduce her husband and him accidentally rejecting her because he's so preoccupied with his failing business. Another scene has Debbie at lunch with her father flipping through the photos of his new family on his phone while he's away from the table. The look on her face tells the whole sad story. But there are signs that Pete and Debbie are destined to be together, the best example of which is when they team up in a school meeting against the parent (Melissa McCarthy) of a boy who is cyber-bullying their eldest. They essentially lie their way through the meeting, but it works and McCarthy is made to look like she has raised a devil child in the process. After this victory, rather than celebrate, Pete and Debbie simply go to their respective cars. It's a sobering moment.

I don't mean to paint a picture of THIS IS 40 that makes it seem heavy and sad. There are a few moments like that, but mostly it's the kind of smart, observant humor that we've come to expect from Apatow. He's a master of having the casting do much of the work for him, although appearances by Jason Segel (reprising his KNOCKED UP role as well) as Debbie's trainer or Michael Ian Black as the family accountant don't really pay off. But those of small parts of a much larger, well-executed comedy about a serious subject.

What the film isn't really about is age. Sure there are a few gags about Debbie lying about her age so often she's completely lost track of what age she's given to which people. But once the film gets past that tried-and-tested concept, it has much more interesting things to say about feeling old versus being old. There's a great sequence where Debbie goes out with Fox's character, Desi, to a club, and she meets a hockey player who clearly has a crush on her. It's a sweet, harmless scene despite the fact that the player is trying to sleep with her. And it's a great play on the feeling we get when someone shows an interest in us even though we're well aware we won't let it go beyond flirting.

The honesty in a moment like that is what sets THIS IS 40 apart. Pete eats too many sweets; Debbie sneaks cigarettes. They make vows to each other to quit and break them almost immediately. That's how relationships work—they ebb and flow and exist on a bed of little white lies, a couple of big secrets, and the wisdom to know when the truth can be your best friend and when it will destroy your very existence. Apatow has lived the kind of life where he can speak on these subjects knowingly and give us a sense of what this life is like if we haven't lived it ourselves. The film is as silly as it is important in the realm of relationship comedies. Not all of the observations ring true (the way the film wraps up the relationship between Debbie and her father is almost unforgivably quaint), but in the arena of comedy, no other film this year gets as many of the details this right.

-- Steve Prokopy
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Readers Talkback
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  • Dec. 21, 2012, 2:52 p.m. CST

    A First Paragraph so poingent it was worth repeating!

    by lochkray

  • Dec. 21, 2012, 2:59 p.m. CST

    To reiterate, when you strip away the jokes...

    by FreeBeer

  • Dec. 21, 2012, 3:06 p.m. CST

    I still have serious hots for Leslie Mann

    by Danny Boil

    I still have serious hots for Leslie Mann

  • Dec. 21, 2012, 3:14 p.m. CST

    Leslie Mann is Judd Apatow's wife? Thanks for pointing that out.

    by Fries Against

  • Dec. 21, 2012, 3:14 p.m. CST


    by Blu Gilliand

    The word you are looking for is "poignant." Or, perhaps, "pungent." Not sure, because neither makes much sense in context, but at least those choices would be spelled correctly.

  • Dec. 21, 2012, 3:15 p.m. CST

    Sheiit I'm stil ere! Thought fer sure i wuz gunna be rapchurd

    by UltraTron

  • Dec. 21, 2012, 3:27 p.m. CST

    Wait 3 and 4 just start the same. My head hurts.

    by Pat

  • Does a comic examination of mid life crisis (40 is old??!) need to be over two hours long??

  • Dec. 21, 2012, 4:23 p.m. CST

    I'm living this movie, I don't want to see it!

    by theBigE

    Why not make a movie with a chimp? Chimps are funny. Middle aged married people aren't.

  • :) Still like his style, though.

  • Dec. 21, 2012, 4:31 p.m. CST

    A fun game is to see how many sentences Capone can go without a typo.

    by Garbageman33

    In this case, he didn't even make it through one (and I'm not suggest in any way that you do that). Seriously, dude, you're a decent writer. Just read through things once before you post them. Is that too much to ask?

  • Dec. 21, 2012, 4:55 p.m. CST


    by Loosejerk

    is developing the career that Kevin Smith wished he had.

  • Dec. 21, 2012, 5:18 p.m. CST

    THIS IS ...

    by treatment

    ...60, 80, 100, etc Apatow and company have found a loophole

  • Dec. 21, 2012, 5:42 p.m. CST



  • Dec. 21, 2012, 6:11 p.m. CST

    Maude Apatow is becoming a "great actress?"

    by gumbyandpokey


  • Dec. 21, 2012, 6:28 p.m. CST

    (Paul Rudd and Apatow's real-life wife Leslie Mann)

    by GeptaOO1

    Capone.... who the fuck taught you grammar?

  • Dec. 21, 2012, 6:29 p.m. CST

    Does no one proofread anymore?

    by Hamlet3145


  • Dec. 21, 2012, 6:29 p.m. CST

    and God damn it proofread!

    by GeptaOO1

    the first paragraph is repeated! fuck

  • The last trailer/feature thing looked slightly better. But still terrible.

  • Dec. 21, 2012, 8:04 p.m. CST

    I miss real comedies...

    by SK229

    I think the 70's, 80's, and early 90's were a golden age of movie comedy. Films like Trading Places, Animal House, Ghostbusters, National Lampoon's Vacation... hell, What About Bob?, The Burbs, and I'll even throw in a Captain Ron. Summer Rental? But most especially class warrior stuff... Caddyshack is like a Shakespearean comedy of manners compared to Apatow's brand of trash. Everything he does, ALL of his humor centers around bodily functions, drugs (or just pot, really), sex, Judaism, and relationshippy stuff. There's ZERO subtlety... Even The Cable Guy is pure genius compared to 99.9% of the comedies of the last ten years or so. I just miss comedies about OTHER THINGS... a few examples of the kind of moments you don't see in comedies anymore: In National Lampoon's Vacation, 'Alrighty, that'll be thirty-seven dollar. Thirty-seven dollars for THREE tents?' In Ghostbusters, 'You're not gonna lose the house, everybody has three mortgages nowadays. Ray, for your information, the interest rate for the first five years alone comes to $95,000.' In Coming to America, 'Got just one window facing a brick wall. Used to rent it to a blind man. Damn shame what they did to that dog.' And of course, 'Yes... yes... fuck you too!' Also, "Let us dress like New Yorkers." And all the Soul Glo stuff?' In Caddyshack, pretty much all of Chevy's verbal word play. Anything that comes out of Ted Knight's mouth. Rodney - 'Hey, the cemetary's two blocks to the left!' And Bill Murray of course. The point I'm trying to make is, a lot of this stuff was WRITTEN. Little moments of invention or characters that are CHARACTERS. There's improv, sure, but there's more concept behind it all. Today's comedies are FUCKING LAZY. Who the fuck remembers any of the characters in comedies of recent years. Can they even be called that? 9 times out of 10, actors like Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd are playing themselves or just a generic equivalent, "Pretty girl." "Shrill wife." "40 year old virgin." I laugh at some of it, sure, but I'd just like to see a return to that inventiveness, the class and social humor, the CHARACTERS and even the racial humor, which nobody has the balls to do anymore. Tropic Thunder is the only comedy in recent years that had some cajones on it.

  • Dec. 21, 2012, 8:06 p.m. CST

    Also, that GQ interview with Bill Murray...

    by SK229

    and the fifteen seconds of silence regarding today's comedies being 'different' says it all, I think.

  • Dec. 21, 2012, 9 p.m. CST

    according to this article

    by GeptaOO1

    Leslie Mann is also married to Paul Rudd

  • Dec. 21, 2012, 9:01 p.m. CST

    and I'm not suggest......

    by GeptaOO1


  • Does every second exhale have to be a curse?

  • Dec. 21, 2012, 10:22 p.m. CST

    Not being a dick...

    by Dan Anthony

    but how would you know what kind of life Apatow has led "where he can speak on these subjects knowingly and give us a sense of what this life is like if we haven't lived it ourselves"?

  • Okay, so this is what really happens: Debbie thinks Megan Fox is stealing money from her store, so she invites her out to coffee to confront her. Instead, they go to a club. While there, they flirt with hockey players and one invites Debbie back to his hotel. She turns him down. Meanwhile, Pete's entire reunion concert he's putting on is a complete failure. Which means his business is surely over. Billie Joe (Green Day), who showed up but refuses to do publicity for Pete's label, invites him for some drinks. Pete turns him down. *Recap* Debbie is at a club flirting with younger men. Pete gets confirmation his whole business is done and he has no way to pay the bills and turns down drinking with a rock star. Okay, now this is a HUGE spoiler - Debbie discovers she's pregnant during the film. She knew about it before going to the club. So, that night Debbie is not trying to "seduce Pete in a small way" like Capone describes it, or “Show the moment where a wife tries to be there for her husband" like Apatow describes it. She's trying to manipulate him to break the news she's pregnant. Which, considering he's just realized how screwed he is, he turns down. They fight, and Pete is sent to the couch to sleep. *Recap* Debbie is STILL going to clubs behind Pete's back and flirting with younger men. Pete's dream of owning his own record label has blown up in his face and he's realized how much he can't help his family - ALL IN ONE NIGHT. Because of this, he turns down her scheme of manipulating him into giving the reaction she wants when telling him she's pregnant. And Pete has to sleep on the couch. And here's some more perspective: Debbie is getting confirmation from younger men and flirting with them, yet, she still feels the need to make that crack about Pete not knowing what to do with Megan Fox. - She's going to clubs in LA, hitting on younger men, but still puts down her husband to her friends. I've already written on this site how disturbing the absence of any real discussion of how privileged Pete, Debbie and their kids are in reviews and stories about this movie is. But, its also just as disturbing how many men seem to think the way Debbie treats Pete, or how Pete and most male characters in movies today are portrayed is completely understandable and deserved.

  • He understands 'menschy impotent dude who marries a woman more attractive than him, who then realizes the only grace in life is being this creature's emotional tampon and obedient servant.' That said, there's some great, truthful observations in the movie that are spot-on and moving, and there are (very few) funny parts. But that good stuff is subsumed into an effluvium of meandering, tonally off scenes which communicate nothing so much as "this is what a boring man with a small dick must do to have hot woman." The movie has some truth and humor, it's just- on the whole - eclisped by a bunch of boring, irrelevant scenes that feature not a single truthful or engaging male character.

  • Dec. 22, 2012, 3:44 a.m. CST

    In a way, he makes rom-coms for unattractive male geeks--

    by Laserhead

    --whose only hope of being with an attractive woman is to find a crazy one and lap up her every insanity. She might cheat on you, too, but it's your duty as a character arc to get over that. It's a wittier version of 'The Kevin Smith Fallacy'

  • Dec. 22, 2012, 3:52 a.m. CST

    No matter how impotent from lack ogf stimulation or soul-devoured a forty-year old

    by Bedknobs and Boomsticks

    man may be, there is no way in hell he wouldn't know what to do with something like Megan Fox. Imagine Mumm-Ra when he gets the juice crossed with a tom cat in heat.

  • Dec. 22, 2012, 6:13 a.m. CST


    by Glenn

    Man, you are two for two, you made a great coupla observations on another movie recently, tho I forget which. -- Now, I'm no Apatow hater; I have really enjoyed his movies, even Funny People which tends to incur all devilish tirades from people -- and I even read the script for This Is 40 (and have not seen the film yet) -- but your precis-analysis of this developing tone of Misandry in all forms of the media is spot-on. And I'm fucking sick of men being portrayed this way, especially when women do things that are just as inappropriate yet excused. Until men start basically yapping about it publicly -- which they can't, because they'll be labeled as pussies that need to grow some balls by the very women exhibiting this kind of behavior, much in the way those in power seek to hide their corruption by claiming it's a conspiracy idea proffered by the very people being victimized. I agree that I just went off on a semi-tangent, but I'm tiring quickly of these men-despising portrayals... by male filmmakers! Again, I'm a fan of Apatow but he needs to reverse this trend in his next work. From what I hear, GIRLS is doing a pretty good juggling act on this point.

  • Dec. 22, 2012, 6:14 a.m. CST


    by Glenn

    The fact that you used the word "effluvium" means I'll be paying more attention to your posts. Good show, my man.

  • Dec. 22, 2012, 6:51 a.m. CST

    Self absorbed morons love Apatow

    by CaptainAction

  • Dec. 22, 2012, 8:24 a.m. CST

    sk229 Amen

    by UGG

    Fucking spot on! This improv based method in comedies has run it's course. And was starting to grate on me even before Anchorman came out. I watched Uncle Buck the other day and shed a tear. I miss Candy and Hughes.

  • Dec. 22, 2012, 11:22 a.m. CST

    Praising Maude Apatow, are you fucking kidding me?

    by Cpt. Arnoldo

    She was one of the worst parts of this self indulgent, unfinished mess. One of the biggest disappointments of the year

  • and so his kids wont hate him have absolutely no interest in this movie

  • Dec. 22, 2012, 1:08 p.m. CST

    Re: ugg

    by SK229

    Right, Uncle Buck... I guess it was the caliber of the actors too. You can't seriously compare Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen, Steven Carell, and Jonah Hill to people like John Candy, Bill Murray, Rick Moranis, Chevy Chase in his prime and DEFINITELY not to Eddie Murphy who, in his prime, was a superstar even above all the others I just mentioned. I think what it mainly is, is that, like I said, their brand of comedy is so narrow and limited that it's put comedies into a rut. I enjoyed Horrible Bosses, Hall Pass, 40 Year Old Virgin, Bridesmaids, and Couple's Retreat as much as the next moviegoer, but come on... they're all the same in so many ways. That said, I think Jason Sudeikis and sometimes Jason Bateman have a touch of that 70's/80's comedic vibe. It's crazy to think that Kurt Russell is capable of being funnier in movies than today's comedic cream of the crop and he ALSO played MacReady. Today I watched Parenthood. That movie has it all and should be more highly regarded as a true classic with a top notch cast and script. I never expected it to age as well as it has (it actually seems more relevant today, maybe even a little too relevant, like the daydream about Kevin shooting people from a clock tower because his dad made him play second base), and there's no way Apatow could put a movie like that together and have it be that honest, cover so many bases, and still be satisfying. Like others have said, he neuters his male protagonist and doesn't seem to realize the female leads are crazy, manipulative, demanding, shrill harpies (with the exception of Catherine Keener in 40 Year Old Virgin) who obviously have semi-serious mental problems.

  • Dec. 22, 2012, 1:41 p.m. CST

    Another interesting tidbit...

    by TopHat

    ...Mann's breasts are cgi ...again. Her breasts were cgi in THE CHANGE-UP. Of course, we're not supposed to bring this up...

  • Dec. 22, 2012, 6:12 p.m. CST

    One Of The Worst Movies I've Seen In A Long Time

    by DeckardB26354

    Not only is this movie not funny, it features not one likeable character. In fact, it more resembles a horror film, because in the end, these completely unlikeable, juvenile, self-absorbed people look like they are going to do alright. That's true horror.

  • Dec. 23, 2012, 1:40 a.m. CST

    Reading through this talkback...


    I hate all of you.

  • Dec. 23, 2012, 2:03 p.m. CST

    The moral of this movie is...

    by Frank unplanned pregnancy will make all of your marital problems disappear because now you're stuck together for another 18 years. What a bad movie.

  • Couple gets into an argument. Dude takes off on a bike. Gets into an accident. Woman shows up to comfort him, everything's okay. Same thing happens in both movies. In 40 Year Old Virgin he goes through that mobile billboard In This Is 40 he rams into a car door and gets all fucked up. Both films had their women show up and suddenly everything's okay. Made more sense in 40 Year Old Virgin because Steve Carrell is then forced to admit he's a virgin.

  • Dec. 23, 2012, 5:55 p.m. CST

    BEWARE the LOST spoilers!

    by D.Vader

    Seriously, the movie spoils the finale for LOST on multiple occasions. If you're watching the show or plan to soon, you may want to skip this movie for awhile.

  • Dec. 23, 2012, 10:31 p.m. CST

    The "Lost" finale was more than two and a half years ago

    by Toe Jam

    No code of silence necessary for something that old. Jesus.

  • Dec. 23, 2012, 11:36 p.m. CST

    Wait... Lost ended?!?

    by Fries Against

  • Dec. 24, 2012, 2:18 a.m. CST

    i love when the grammar police come a knockin

    by walt

    as they barely graduated from high school geezus fuck, who cares...the movie sucks and for some reason, capone liked it thats all that matters

  • Dec. 24, 2012, 6:58 a.m. CST

    Yeah Toe Jam. And people are still watching.

    by D.Vader

  • Dec. 24, 2012, 8:50 a.m. CST

    Leslie mann is not attractive

    by mojoman69

    and the only reason she is gettign decent roles is becasue she blows Apatow.

  • Dec. 24, 2012, 8:53 a.m. CST

    if a real wife

    by mojoman69

    talked to a husband the way MAnn does in this, she would be either A knocked out or b filing for divorce. ive gone out with women like that for one date. you can see thier bitch agenda and if you are smart in the least, you walk

  • Dec. 24, 2012, 10:53 a.m. CST

    Dragged to this one...

    by Bob

    ...and enjoyed it! The GF said I owed her this movie for all the James Bond, Superhero, Sci-Fi movies I drag her to, and she's right. We both thought it was funny. I actually thought it was good. Lots of one liners, the kids were really good in it. My only problem with most romantic comedy these days is that society has deteriorated so fast, most peoples lives are crazier than anything you put to screen these days. Why the F does anyone have to go even go to a movie to see any of this? Just turn on the news any day to see some crazy F'd up shit for free.

  • Dec. 24, 2012, 10:58 a.m. CST

    I usually like Judd Apatow....

    by Orbots Commander

    ...but this flick comes off as, 'Navel Gazing: The Motion Picture'. Those are usually the worst kinds of movies. Wish Apatow would just do a crude, balls to the wall slapstick film, a la Dumb and Dumber, not related to his current family situation.

  • Dec. 24, 2012, 11:25 a.m. CST

    "Leslie mann is not attractive''

    by Mattman

    My penis disagrees.

  • It's not a two hour movie.

  • How shitty would that have been to have it spoiled without warning in a movie when they're so close to the end?

  • Dec. 24, 2012, 3:15 p.m. CST

    FUCK Lost....give it rest, its not worth it...

    by Dan

    I’ve enjoyed most of Apatow’s stuff, “Funny People” is very maligned and a great Sandler flick… I concur with the male-hating vibe going on in the media today, but it’s been going on for a very long time. I think it was started by the Home Improvement shrew. Tim was a decent guy who was reminded every day what an idiot he was and he should be thankful she gives him the time of day…even having their smart-mouthed kids turn on and make fun of him… And Leslie Mann’s character in Knocked Up, when she does that crazy, enraged rant about what I don’t recall, major boner killer… I wanted Paul Rudd to slap the snot out of her right there and I shouldn’t have wished for that…

  • Dec. 24, 2012, 3:15 p.m. CST

    ANd yes, if Mann or any woman talked to me like that...

    by Dan

    Out the door, sugar tits!

  • Dec. 24, 2012, 8:24 p.m. CST

    This film would have been awesome if it had werewolves.

    by Uncle Stan

  • Dec. 25, 2012, 3:33 p.m. CST

    Why is this movie 2 Hrs, 15 Minutes.

    by BigTuna

  • Dec. 25, 2012, 4:13 p.m. CST

    Apatow is currently the most overrated man in Hollywood

    by Dp

    Freaks and Geeks? Created by Paul Feig. Step Brothers? Anchorman? Superbad? Walk Hard? Forgetting Sarah Marshall? All written and directed by people who are not Judd Apatow. OTOH, he *did* write such brilliant works as Celtic Pride, Heavy Weights, Fun With Dick And Jane, and THREE Tom Arnold TV movies.

  • Dec. 25, 2012, 6:17 p.m. CST

    I'm still baffled that Capone reccomended The Master

    by Lovecraftfan

    Since everybody hates that movie you must have revised your opinin.

  • Dec. 25, 2012, 6:29 p.m. CST

    Had funny moments BUT...

    by Jason

    way too forced crude humor. Relying on the word "fuck" constantly tells me you are not that great at writing comedy.

  • Dec. 26, 2012, 7:34 p.m. CST

    All Apatow movies are 45min too long.

    by uberfreak

  • Dec. 26, 2012, 7:35 p.m. CST

    Fuck Lost.

    by uberfreak

  • Dec. 26, 2012, 9:03 p.m. CST

    ''Fuck Lost." What a compelling argument.

    by Mattman

  • Dec. 27, 2012, 1:03 a.m. CST

    Lost Fuck.

    by uberfreak