In the comedies of Hollywood writer-producer-director Judd Apatow, two rules apply: People grow up painfully and reluctantly, and filthier always equals funnier.
Apatow's new comedy, This Is 40, is no exception. Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann reprise their roles from Knocked Up as Pete and Debbie, an attractive but chronically unhappy married couple trying to navigate adulthood with two young daughters.
Pete owns a record label, where he's trying to revive interest in old-school acts such as Graham Parker and Paul Westerberg. Debbie owns a boutique clothing store, where she employs 20-something hotties including one played by Megan Fox.
That's really all you need to know, because This Is 40 isn't much of a movie. It's more of a premise upon which a dozen funny performers riff on hard-R topics.
There are hundreds upon hundreds of Apatow-style jokes in this thing, both scripted and clearly improvised. Jokes about colonoscopies and mammograms and gynecology tools. Jokes about abortion and spousal murder and setting other moms on fire. Jokes about hemorrhoids and egg donors and toilet habits. Jokes about escorts and Oxycontin addicts and French-kissing babies. Jokes about Jews and lesbians and how to tell a gay man mustache from a straight man mustache. And, of course, dick jokes—lots and lots of dick jokes.
At two hours and 15 minutes, it's extreme and exhausting. But it's often very funny, thanks to the mathematics of sheer volume. I laughed a lot, even when I didn't want to. Look for funny bits from Albert Brooks, Robert Smigel, Lena Dunham and especially Melissa McCarthy, who once again demolishes every scene she's in. (Stick around for the end credits.)
But nothing really lingers. This is comedy of situation and language, not character. Despite a noble effort from Mann, the people we're supposed to care about aren't worth our affection. If you want to watch self-absorbed Los Angelenos crack dirty jokes for two hours, this is your movie. You'll have a genuinely good time, then instantly forget it all in the theater parking lot.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Aging grossly, and gracefully."