Film Review: This Is 40

Married couple hits midlife crises in the latest Judd Apatow comedy.

The Judd Apatow comedy formula might be wearing a little thin in This Is 40, but he still delivers more laughs than most of his competition. Apatow and his cast score despite a shambling storyline that often seems headed in too many directions. Foolproof comic situations mixed with some genuine emotional moments make this "sort of" sequel to Knocked Up a good bet for moviegoers looking for escapist fun.

Raunchy as usual, Apatow opens his film with a shower sex scene that quickly degenerates into a stinging war of words between Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann). Their fight continues as they plan Pete's 40th birthday party with their girls Sadie and Charlotte (played by real-life Apatow children Maude and Iris). The same age as Pete, Debbie is still holding onto 38 (a choice that will pay off beautifully when she visits her gynecologist).

Yes, in Apatow's world 40 means problems: with health, grandparents, school and money—all on top of normal relationship crises like too much or too little sex. Pete runs a niche record company that resurrects retro rockers (in this case, real-life singer and songwriter Graham Parker) and is a black hole for profits. Debbie is being robbed blind at her midscale boutique. Should she blame Desi (a surprisingly capable Megan Fox), who flaunts expensive clothes, or the mousy Jodi (Charlyne Yi)?

In fact, can they even afford to continue living in their house? Especially since Pete is slipping money to his dad Larry (a brilliant Albert Brooks), a mooch who is raising in-vitro triplets with his new wife. Debbie, on the other hand, has abandonment issues with her father Oliver (John Lithgow), who is busy with his second family.

Pete and Debbie are self-centered and immature, a combination that can grow irritating very quickly. To their credit, Rudd and Mann don't try to hide their characters' flaws, Rudd unfortunately coming off a bit worse than the ditzy and angelic Mann. What saves their roles is Apatow's honesty and insight. If Pete weren't such a secretive jerk, his efforts to do right by his family wouldn't mean as much to viewers.

On some levels This Is 40 is Apatow's love letter to his wife Mann, one that she richly deserves even though it includes mammograms, tantrums and sneaking cigarettes. The film is also stealthily transgressive, with erotic touches that will leave adolescents gasping, and outright scorn for moral niceties. Watch how Pete and Debbie dismantle aggrieved fellow parent Catherine (a dazzling Melissa McCarthy), for example, even though she's in the right.

Albert Brooks deserves special mention for his harsh, unsentimental, but somehow still funny performance as a thoughtless grandfather. So does Annie Mumolo (as Debbie's friend Barb), who delivers a jaw-dropping monologue on her compromised sex life. In fact, everyone in the supporting cast adds to This Is 40, an ungainly but very enjoyable film. And judging from the closing credits, Apatow has enough material left over for an outstanding director's cut.