Movie review: Numbers aside, this is life in 'This Is 40'

East Tennessee native Megan Fox, right, stars alongside Leslie Mann in "This Is 40."

Photo by Suzie Hanover, ©Universal Pictures

East Tennessee native Megan Fox, right, stars alongside Leslie Mann in "This Is 40."

An original comedy that expands upon the story of Pete and Debbie from the blockbuster hit Knocked Up as we see first-hand how they are ...

Rating: R for sexual content, crude humor, pervasive language and some drug material

Length: 133 minutes

Released: December 21, 2012 Nationwide

Cast: Leslie Mann, Paul Rudd, Megan Fox, Jason Segel, Chris O'Dowd

Director: Judd Apatow

Writer: Judd Apatow

More info and showtimes »

There are all kinds of encouraging phrases to help people deal with turning 40 — among them, "age is just a number," "you're only as old as you feel" and "40 is the new 30," which is guaranteed to get a laugh from a 30-year-old.

"This Is 40" looks at a couple turning 40 within days of each other. The woman refuses to acknowledge the number, while the man claims to be fine with it. But what people say and what they do are two different things, and the joy of this film is exploring the truth, large and small.

The fourth film directed by Judd Apatow, "This Is 40" stars Apatow's wife, Leslie Mann, who turned 40 this year, and Paul Rudd, who hit the high-water mark three years ago but hasn't fallen apart yet. Mann and Rudd have both been in many projects directed, written and/or produced by Apatow, and in fact their characters in "40" are the ones they first portrayed in "Knocked Up."

In a sense, "This Is 40" is a sequel — but it isn't really, except as far as all of life is a sequel to what has come before. Having kids is (often) a sequel to getting married. Getting into a rut is a sequel to forming patterns in a marriage. Even our behavior can be a sequel to the example set by our parents.

Pete (Rudd) and Debbie (Mann) have one beautiful home, two very nice cars and two typical daughters, 13-year-old Sadie (Maude Apatow) and 8-year-old Charlotte (Iris Apatow) (Apatow and Mann's children, reprising their roles as well). Pete has started his own record label, with a goal of signing only acts he believes in, and Debbie owns a clothing boutique that boasts total-opposite associates Desi (Megan Fox) and Jodi (Charlyne Yi).

Debbie doesn't like the idea of 40. She doesn't want to wear matronly clothes or have a husband who uses Viagra. Pete doesn't see the big deal, but then his "work" is the obsession he's had since he was a teenager (and he's still hung up on the idols from back in the day), and he fantasizes about Debbie dying so that he can become a sought-after widower.

The film holds family dynamics up to the light and finds painful, awkward and hilarious truths. It's a people film, not a family film, but since most of us have families, we can relate to that part. Pete's too-close-for-comfort dad, Larry (Albert Brooks), and Debbie's distant father, Oliver (John Lithgow), do a lot to explain the psyches of their offspring.

Apatow's script is bawdy and sometimes outrageous, but the humor mostly comes from situations, not lines. Rudd and Mann come across as real — not always likable, but real — and their anchor makes the occasional silliness fit.

"This Is 40" not only isn't a sequel, but it's not really about turning 40. It's about being present in the life you have and owning up to it. It's about two people who love each other but sometimes forget that. It's about loving what you do and doing what you love. Who doesn't want that?

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