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December 22, 2012 | 1:09 p.m. CST
Fans of director Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up are probably a little excited to see the return of dysfunctional couple Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) in This is 40. Yes, Rudd and Mann are still the same hilarious and nutty twosome from 2007. But sadly, they aren’t as awesome as they were alongside Seth Rogan and Katherine Heigl.
The story begins where Knocked Up left off — with Pete and Debbie trying desperately to tolerate each other while raising their (now much older) girls. Both are turning 40 years old in the same week, and they decide to ring in the occasion with a series of lifestyle changes. No more cigarette smoking and incessant pestering for Debbie, and Pete must abandon his beloved cupcakes in favor of tofu and lettuce. The shift causes major friction between the two that results in more fighting and making up than a prepubescent love fest. On top of all that, the family encounters some very real, serious issues along the way. Luckily, Apatow makes sure to inject enough of his comedic genius into each scenario to keep the audience interested; who else would place Rudd in the middle of an extremely heated argument with Melissa McCarthy about touching her “very high nipples?”
The movie shows a lot of promise in the lighthearted opening scenes but seems to drag on after the first 45 minutes. Why This is 40 became a 2-hour extravaganza is a mystery, but it definitely could have been worse. The character development and emotional struggles of Pete and Debbie are captivating enough to hold the audience’s attention even when the material is lacking, and Mr. Apatow should be thankful for that. Unfortunately, this dynamic duo can’t save this film from being anything more than mediocre.