This overlong comedy is so episodic that watching it is exactly like sitting through five episodes of a sitcom back-to-back. It's funny and enjoyable, with characters we enjoy watching, but they continually spiral back to where they started, and in the end we feel like there's been a lot of fuss about nothing. Even so, the script offers plenty of hilarious observational humour, and the cast is thoroughly entertaining.
Reprising their roles from Knocked Up, Rudd and Mann play Debbie and Pete, who turn 40 within a week of each other. But Debbie isn't coping very well with it, and her emotions swing wildly from steamy lust to fiery rage while Pete just tries to hang on. Their daughters (played by Apatow and Mann's real daughters Maude and Iris) each have their own issues to stir into the mix. And then Pete's needy father (Brooks) turns up with problems of his own, forcing Debbie to think about her own distant father (Lithgow). Meanwhile, the economic crunch is causing problems for both of their businesses.
Yes, both of them own businesses. This is not the typical struggling 40-something couple, so it's not easy to sympathise with many of their issues. Fortunately, Apatow's dialog is packed with brazen honesty and an appreciation for rude gags that keep us laughing even in the absence of an actual storyline we can get involved in (although there's one major plot point along the way). Rudd and Mann were arguably the best thing in Knocked Up, so it's great to let them take the spotlight here, making the most of their sparky interaction. And aside from experts like Brooks and Lithgow, there is a continual stream of superb side roles, including Fox as Debbie's oversexed and possibly embezzling employee and McCarthy as a furious school parent (her big scene is expanded into a brilliantly improvised outtake riff in the closing credits).
As the film continues, the whole notion of turning 40 becomes utterly irrelevant, because these two sexy, wealthy, eternally youthful people certainly don't need to worry about age. It may be easier to identify with the financial crunch. Or long-term relationship issues like putting up with each others' unhealthy obsessions (Pete's cupcakes and Debbie's cigarettes), increasingly awkward medical exams and the difficultly of finding time to be intimate when there are kids in the house. There's nothing here we haven't seen before, but at least Apatow puts it together in a way that keeps us smiling for a couple of hours.
Run time: 134 mins
In Theaters: Friday 21st December 2012
Box Office USA: $67.5M
Box Office Worldwide: $88.1M
Distributed by: Universal Studios
Production compaines: Apatow Productions
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 51%
Fresh: 106 Rotten: 100
IMDB: 6.2 / 10
Director: Judd Apatow
Screenwriter: Judd Apatow
Starring: Paul Rudd as Pete, Leslie Mann as Debbie, Jason Segel as Jason, Maude Apatow as Sadie, Megan Fox as Desi, Lena Dunham as Larry, Melissa McCarthy as Catherine, Charlyne Yi as CAt, John Lithgow as Oliver, Robert Smigel as CAt, Albert Brooks as Larry, Chris O'Dowd as Ronnie, Annie Mumolo as Barb, Billie Joe Armstrong as Billie Joe Armstrong, Iris Apatow as Charlotte, Michael Ian Black as Accountant, Wyatt Russell as Flirty Hockey Player
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