Judd Apatow’s latest undertaking revisits Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann), the churlish yet lovable couple first introduced in Knocked Up
. The story picks up a few years after that rom-com, and though its tagline suggests otherwise, This Is 40
is not even “sort of” a sequel. Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl are nowhere to be found, nor is there any mention of their characters. The hilariously fiery dynamic between Pete and Debbie, however, is here in full force. Pete and Debbie are turning 40 within a week of each other, and both make the middle-aged years look absolutely terrifying. Their lives are a depressing stew of resentment, regret and unfulfilling sex, all conveyed through sarcastic hyperbole. Pete, on the verge of losing his record label, spends his days cowering on the toilet, playing Words With Friends
on his iPad, until Debbie inevitably sniffs him out and swoops in to blast him with a round of emotional blackmail. They spend much of their time fantasizing about one another’s demise. Though Apatow’s souped-up potty humor and fantastic cast keep the laughs coming from start to finish, This Is 40
at times frustrates in its insistence to be, well, just a movie about turning 40. The plot does not extend any further than that. But it’s still worth a watch: Apatow brings us close enough to Pete and Debbie that anyone can see a piece of themselves in their choppy love life. It may not work out so happily for everyone, but damn if This Is 40
doesn’t make it seem possible.