Directed by: Judd Apatow
Starring: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, John Lithgow, Megan Fox, Albert Brooks
In quantum mechanics there is something called the Heisenberg principle. According to this principle the very act of observing a sub atomic particle changes it. Pete and Debbie aren’t sub atomic particles but when they start to take a close look at their lives everything starts to change.
Pete and Debbie (Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann) are turning 40 within a week of each other. Well Pete is, Debbie is turning 38 (wink, wink).There’s something about those big round numbers that triggers a deep need for introspection and reflection. Personally I get all introspective on ages that are even primes, but each to his or her own. On the surface Pete and Debbie appear to be heading up a perfect upper middle class family, but lets take a closer look. Yes, Pete is running his own record label. As cool as this sounds though there are rough edges. His number one artist is an aging rocker that may be awesome but nobodies been interested in him for twenty years. Debbie owns an upscale clothing boutique but she suspects her best salesperson is stealing more than she sells. They own a beautiful house but they are missing mortgage payments. There’s more as well; Pete is addicted to cupcakes and is loaning money to his father behind Debbie’s back, Debbie sneaks cigarettes and hasn’t spoken to her father in seven years, Sadie their thirteen year old daughter is obsessed with Lost and is constantly fighting with Charlotte their youngest daughter. While the status quo is no sugar free lollipop things just get even more interesting when Debbie comes up with a list to improve their lives and Pete half-heartedly goes along.
In most movies, or at least ones like this, the protagonists are likable or at least sympathetic, but for long stretches of This is 40 Pete and Debbie are neither. Then they will do something that shows how devoted they actually are to each other or how much they love their daughters, but even that isn’t enough sometimes. In one hilarious but slightly disturbing scene they bond over lying there way out of a bad situation they got themselves in when Debbie bullied one of Sadie’s classmates and Pete later on bullies the kid’s Mom. Yes it’s funny but Pete and Debbie just end up looking ugly. Luckily the movie isn’t just about Pete and Debbie, well actually it is, but they are supported by a great cast playing interesting characters. Albert Brooks is fantastic as Larry, Pete’s financially needy father. John Lithgow is sublime as Debbie’s long absent father. But the real revelations are Maude and Iris Apatow, Judd Apatow and Leslie Mann’s daughters, playing Sadie and Charlotte. They not only are funny but can actually act and manage to steal most scenes they are in. Floating in and out of scenes are Melissa McCarthy, Megan Fox, Chris O’Dowd, Rob Smigel and others.
Apatow’s improvisational style gives all of these talented performers a chance to shine but sometimes the performances actually take you out of the story. It’s like the narrative stops and the movie goes into sketch mode for a scene and then after the patter drops off the story picks back up. This can be jarring but unfortunately the way the movie kind of meanders at times it’s actually welcome. The movie clocks in at two hours and fourteen minutes and it feels like it. When you add it all up the movie is entertaining. I get the feeling that it’s supposed to be a bit more profound that it actually is but there are some laughs and good performances.
The video is crisp, even sharp. The cinematographer Phendon Papamichael leverages this with a deep focus in nearly every scene. It’s only in close ups that the background goes all creamy, anything wider than a two shot and everything is sharp as a tack. This along with a balanced color palette imparts every scene with a naturalness that perfectly complements the action on the screen. The DVD looks fine but the Blu Ray looks fantastic. I never noticed any sort of aliasing or blooming or any other sort of digital artifacts.
The audio is everything you would expect it to be. The dialog, foley and soundtrack all blend well one never stepping on the other. The soundtrack is fantastic with tracks from Paul Simon, Fiona Apple, Lindsey Buckingham and a bunch of other great artists. Apatow has a great ear for matching music to mood. On top of the great soundtrack Jon Brion provides some nice bits of score. I never noticed any distortion or any other problems with the audio.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
This two disc set, one Blu Ray and one DVD, comes in a standard blue tinted single width Blu Ray case. The case comes packaged with a cardboard slipcase. The artwork lets you know exactly what your getting yourself into. Along with the Blu Ray and DVD Universal is including a digital copy accessible through iTunes or UltraViolet (which always make me think of ultra-violent which I would nearly swear is a color in one of Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker books). Along with the ubiquitous deleted and extended scenes and the making of featurette there are a couple of pieces featuring Albert Brooks and Graham Parker and The Rumour, along with several musical performances by Graham Parker and Ryan Adams. There is an informative audio commentary provided by Apatow and on top of this there are a bunch of other little bits filling in the corners.
You can tell this is a personal movie even without listening to the commentary. It does star three quarters of the Apatow family with Dad behind the camera. In a sense it is a very elaborate family movie except Mom and Dad and their friends are actually funny. In this case at least that’s not a bad thing.
The Movie: 6/10
The Video: 9/10
The Audio: 8/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features: 9/10
Overall (Not an Average): 7/10