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You won’t get far into This Is 40 before you start thinking, “This is tedious.” In fact, it takes about 30 seconds. Judd Apatow’s latest starts steamily, with Debbie (Leslie Mann) and Pete (Paul Rudd), the secondary couple in Knocked Up, having sex in the shower on Debbie’s 40th—-er, “38th”—-birthday. Then she finds out that Pete took a Viagra, his way of trying to make her birthday special. Debbie takes offense, whining that he no longer finds her attractive and complaining that she doesn’t want “a turbo penis.”
And from that point through the next two-plus hours, the bitching and arguing never really stop. The couple yell at each other, their kids (Maude and Iris Apatow) yell at each other, the parents yell at the kids. “I’m sick of everybody fighting!” says the younger girl toward the end of the film. You’ll be sick of everybody fighting long before that. (And if you’re going to have someone bicker with you, you don’t want it to be Mann: That nasal, high-pitched voice turns into an unbearable screech quite easily.)
Worse: Very little of it is funny. The plot meanders but centers on Debbie and Pete’s dissatisfaction with their marriage as they both turn 40. He admits to a friend that he’s fantasized about her dying; she demands to check the toilet when she thinks he’s been hiding in the bathroom instead of using it. They’re having money problems. Their daughters are brats. Debbie barely has a relationship with her uptight, distant father (John Lithgow), while Pete can’t stop loaning money to his (Albert Brooks), even though it may mean losing the house. Laughing yet?
If the film has a strength, it is its realistic dialogue. There are awkward moments and harsh ones, and occasionally some tenderness sneaks in there (though the tiresome getting-high scene doesn’t count). And there are a few giggles, including Pete randomly comparing Debbie to Art Garfunkel during an argument. The joke may make you smile, but when This Is 40 is over, you’ll be grateful for the sound of silence.