Bit dubious opening this on Valentine’s Day. Its depiction of marriage at midlife, with money worries and kids at each other’s throats, is hardly encouraging. But Judd Apatow has always been about relationship realism, dished up in comedies he’s written, directed or produced about awkward, likeably unlikeable characters – see, for example, Knocked Up and Bridesmaids. Here, he writes and directs a “sort-of” sequel to the former, but it falls far short of the latter. The laughs are variable, positioned somewhere between satire and schoolboy without finding solid ground, and a lack of plot makes it play long and tedious.
Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann reprise their Knocked Up supporting characters of Pete and Debbie, turning 40 and married with daughters (impressive debuts from Apatow’s and Mann’s own daughters). They bicker about sex and domestic duties, referee the kids and are apprehensive about ageing.
Both have less-than-successful businesses and less-than-useful fathers. It’s “realism”, all right, but Apatow’s improvisational tone is missing from the dialogue-heavy humour: the bickering comes across as if they’re making speeches at each other, at which point there goes the realism and also the humour: it feels as if they’re trying too hard.
The pity is that it’s a great comedy cast. Albert Brooks and John Lithgow as the fathers, Chris O’Dowd, Lena Dunham … but this is not their best work. The best work is actually in an outtake at the end, where Melissa McCarthy riffs her way through a glorious rant.
Disappointing – but I am the wrong demographic. Although, come to think of it, my forties were probably just as miserable and tiresome as what’s on show here.
OPENS FEBRUARY 14
THIS IS 40, directed by Judd Apatow
Films are rated out of 5: 1 = abysmal; 5 = amazing