Thursday, January 10, 2013

Rated D - This Is 40

If it’s a Judd Apatow comedy about marriage… then “This Is 40”
If it’s a subpar movie review with corny jokes… then “This is Your D”

Welcome Back to Rated D!

Dearly beloved, we gathered the other day, made a vow to see a film, and walked down the aisle to theatre 6 to see "This Is 40".  SPOILER ALERT:  During the week of their 40th birthdays, a married couple with two kids struggles to ensure their future happiness and keep their sanity.

Every time I see a preview for an upcoming Judd Apatow movie I have the exact same reaction:  Brilliant!  Why didn’t I think of that?!  I then sink into a deep depression, sell my possessions, close myself off from society, and sob in the shower for hours a la “The Crying Game” with a bottle of whiskey singing Lionel Ritchie songs…. Man, thank god he only makes a movie every two years…. Anywho, I have the same initial reaction that this movie is going to be hilarious and right on the money and think, “with such a great, simple premise for comedy, how could it not be an instant comedy classic?!”  But, alas, I typically find myself driving home wondering why I didn’t like it more.

In his fourth feature film, Writer-Director Judd Apatow takes a look inside married life or maybe just into the mirror to bring us the “sort-of-sequel to ‘Knocked Up’” called “This Is 40”.  Much like a television spinoff, this time we get the chance to follow two supporting characters from the 2008 raunchy-RomCom “Knocked Up” as they navigate the hectic, twisty road of life while approaching the big 4 – Uh-Oh!  It’s nothing too crazy, just a normal Upper Middle Class family comedy… Hmm… reading that back I guess that description isn’t that common.  First, there’s Pete, played by Paul Rudd (Clueless, I Love You, Man), a likeable everyman who dreams of big success for his self-started record company, but constantly lets his generosity and idealism get him into trouble.  Followed next by, his two daughters, played again by Apatow’s real life children:  Iris, an eight year old, who is not so blissfully ignorant to all the tension in the house and Maude, a twelve year old in those universal awkward years who is angry at the world (most likely because her dad named her Maude).  Finally, there’s Debbie, played by Apatow’s real life spouse, Leslie Mann (The Cable Guy, 17 Again), a wife and mother near the end of her rope whose crushing fear of aging and inability to find satisfaction in the status quo leads her on a tumultuous crusade to change it.  Some people have criticized it for just being “a movie about middle-aged white people with middle-aged white people problems”, and they’re not completely off-base, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that idea.  The execution on the other hand… It has potential to be a great time.  Take into account the economy, the housing market, and the blindingly fast changing world of technology, toss in family problems and your own insecurities love and happiness and you’ve got the potential for a pretty entertaining dramady… or a very informative suicide note…. Like I said, a laugh riot!

But even with all that potential for one funny scene after the next, that’s all it winds up being, sort of: a string of sometimes funny vignettes usually tied loosely together by the family or financial string without much of an overall story.  For some audience members, that’s all they need and if that’s your case, you won’t be disappointed, least of all in the hilarious hotel room getaway scene where Pete and Debbie reignite their passion and flare for fun with the aid of some marijuana cookies.  Just try not to think too hard about the BMW or gorgeous five star hotel or it might get even harder to feel sympathy for them.  And still, even if that’s all you are looking for in the movie, the comedy riffs and sex jokes wear thin fast.  For me, I wanted to see a full story, not just a glimpse into a week or two of their less than stellar lives.  To be fair, there’s some great stuff happening here, both on the comedic and serious sides, like during some of the fights or tense convos where you instantly recognize that you’ve been there, done that (or been there, thought that, but didn’t say that out loud, more likely).

However, often times during the movie, the very likeable actors can’t escape that their characters and just too flawed without enough redeeming qualities to actually be likeable.  Such is the case with Pete’s insatiable mooch of a father, played by Albert Brooks (Finding Nemo, The Scout), who delivers some funny shock lines, but ultimately becomes too much for even the audience to care about even when he “learns the error of his ways” towards the end.  There’s some hit or miss moments with other characters as well:  Hit – An underused John Lithgow (Shrek) gives a heartfelt couple of scenes as a distant father grappling with his shortcomings Miss – Charlene Yi (Paper Heart) sinks into ridiculously stupid character voices for absolutely no reason… you might have to see it to understand what I mean… but you won’t fully understand it.

Though this is one of the films I was most looking forward to seeing this year, it was pretty big letdown that seemed (much like the plot) to just breeze in and breeze out with little impact or importance.  I’d still love to see the gag reel or line-o-rama as I bet there’s plenty of good laughs there, but as for a whole cohesive movie, it just didn’t work for me.  Again, lots of potential but with just a bunch of things happening without a real solid story “This Is 40” also feels like This Is 40 minutes too long.  Sigh, bazinga.

D's Recommendation – 2.5 out of 5 – Would be better after a couple of 40s.

In Honor of Elvis Presley’s Birthday…
"Elvis Impersonators"
Movies featuring an the Elvis Character

1.  Walk the Line (2005) – So Elvis might only be a ghostlike figure hanging out in the wings during a concert in the beginning of the movie, but this flick was too good to leave off the list.  It surprised a lot of people when they lifted back the veil on “The Man in Black” only to see that he had lived a mostly modest life outside of some drug abuse and one night spent in jail, but the performances and soundtrack really drove it home.  I only wish Johnny Cash had lived to make a biopic in return called “Jouq the Pheonix”.

2.  True Romance (1993) – Quentin Tarantino, the filmmakers’ king of retro cool, penned the script for this guns a-blazing tale of a bizarre romance which really propelled his career, selling this script to make one of my all-time favorite movies, “Reservoir Dogs”.  Look for Val Kilmer as Elvis who sends Christian Slater off to rid the world of an evil drug dealer.

3.  Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007) – Speaking of Judd Apatow, he wrote the script and produced this biopic genre spoof which borrows heavily from “Walk the Line”.  It’s a little long for such a zany comedy, but the script stays funny enough and there’s a huge amount of cameos from comedy world to keep things fresh, like Jack White of the White Stripes as a mumbling, delusional Elvis doing Karate.

4.  Man in the Moon (2010) – Ok, so I’ve already used “Forrest Gump” and “3000 Miles to Graceland” which have much better Elvis appearances or references, but alas in this economy… Keeping with the biopic spirit, Jim Carrey starred as odd, if not brilliant, comedian Andy Kaufman in this flick.  Carrey reenacted many of Kaufman’s signature characters and stand-up bits including his goofy Elvis impersonation.

5.  Bubba Hotep (2006) – And now for the mother of them all… This fun indie gem takes place in a nursing home and stars Bruce Campbell as the real Elvis Presley fighting off an Ancient Egyptian soul-eating monster with the help of an old black man who claims to be the real JFK, played by Ossie Davis.  Need I say more… probably.

Rated DVD –
Pitch Perfect –
When I saw the preview for this, I thought it looked hilarious, but I also figured there was no possible way this movie could be good… at all.  I love Anna Kendrick and Elizabeth Banks, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be good, but alas… I was awesomely surprised.

This hilarious musical comedy dives into the ridiculously dorky world of a capella group competitions at the collegiate level and makes no apologies for its ridiculous storylines and characters.  From the first scene to the credits I was cracking up and genuinely having a really good time with this one.  It’s so self aware that what they’re doing is fun for them and looks so weird and trivial to outsiders that you never find it getting too overdramatic which can often times drag a good movie into the “Step Up” canyons or “gLee” caverns.

Next Time on Rated D...
Zero Dark Thirty – I guess it’s about some guy who was attacked by seals or something.  It must take place at the beach, I’ll let you know.

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