This-is-40-family

If this is marriage, I expect to sleep through it.

This is 40, the latest improv-comedy hybrid romp from Judd Apatow and his usual gang of collaborators opens in wide release on December 21st. It portends to be an unflinchingly yet humorously honest portrayal of what the middle of a marriage looks like. Instead, it’s more of a 2-and-a-half hour White People Problems vlog entry.

Pete (Paul Rudd) is starting his own independent record label focusing on repackaging fringe-legends to a new audience. His current client’s, Graham Parker, newest record is set to either submarine his business or set it on a firm foundation that will let it grow.

What Pete’s wife, Debbie (Leslie Mann), does not know is just how shaky Pete’s finances are as he starts his new record label. The debt is slowly starting to overwhelm the business and may cause Pete to have to sell the couple’s house in order to avoid bankruptcy. This isn’t helped by the fact that Pete has been secretly lending money to his father (Albert Brooks) behind Debbie’s back. This has led Pete into a shame spiral that he manifests in bike riding and guilt-eating cupcakes.

Debbie has secrets of her own. She’s taken to sneaking cigarettes and covering it up in a bizarre ritual of perfume, mouthwash and hand sanitizer that must leave her smelling like a CVS melted. She’s also presiding over a failing clothing store with a $12,000 budget shortfall that she suspects has been caused by thievery from her employee Desi (Megan Fox).

Sick of all the lies, Debbie decides that she and her family are going to change. No more lying. No more bad habits. No more disappearing into electronics and away from each other. That’s the mandate she lays down and where a normal movie would begin. We’d watch the process of this family bettering itself.

But this isn’t a normal movie. It’s barely a movie at all. The process of betterment is hardly even mentioned after Debbie’s declaration. Except for moments where she says they were supposed to be going through this process. Almost the film reminding itself that it is without a plot or any real motivation for its characters.

Rather than a coherent story, or any story at all, what the film delivers is a long string of malaise interrupted by some good comedic bits that come from the cast’s improvising. It’s worth seeing for those moments, but maybe not worthwhile enough given the film’s tiring length and its almost complete and utter refusal to tell a story.

Pete’s trying to make his record label succeed is seen as more of a nuisance than it is a goal for the character. He just needs money to make his life work – this doesn’t seem like a passion of his, nor does anything going on in Debbie’s life. It’s all just kind of there as a motive for complaint.

Maybe that’s the point, that marriage at this age sucks the passion and the journey out of your life. That being 40 years old is so incredibly mundane and painful that to even begin to assign a story to your life would be utterly pointless.

That’s an excellent idea for an essay, but to make it the theme of your film does nothing more than to suck the entertainment value out of it. Apatow attempts to offset this by running into some comedic moments along the way, but when they’re stretched so thin amidst such a mundane film they do little more than offer respite rather than a compelling reason to tune in.

It’s almost as if this is just a really great outtake real that Apatow decided to build a movie around. He’s got plenty of funny at his disposal, but rather than build a comedy around the humorous aspects of his film, he builds a non-drama around the annoying aspects of it.

And that’s enough to make a fella want to get a divorce from this once-great filmmaker.