This Is 40, Judd Apatow's fourth film as a director, hits theaters today, and it's receiving mixed reaction from critics and proving less popular with reviewers than anything he's directed so far. On Rotten Tomatoes, the movie scored a 52%, compared to 68, 90, and 86 for Funny People, Knocked Up, and The 40 Year-Old Virgin, respectively. On Rotten Tomatoes's less popular little brother Metacritic, it received a 58/100, compared to 60, 85, and 73 for those three same films. Despite the middling marks from critics, This Is 40 is still doing much better than your average big studio comedy in 2012 and has been receiving praise from some critics, especially for its performances.
Rolling Stone's Peter Travers praises the film's ensemble, writing "[Paul] Rudd and [Leslie] Mann are a joy to watch… Cheers as well to a terrific supporting cast, including Melissa McCarthy as a mother from hell, John Lithgow as Debbie's withdrawn father, and the priceless Albert Brooks as Pete's dad." Albert Brooks has been generating some Oscar buzz for his turn in the movie, but Variety writes that the entire cast is "studded with superb supporting players." Todd McCarthy at The Hollywood Reporter feels, "There's not a weak or false note struck by the cast, as everyone gets on the live-wire wavelength." Melissa McCarthy, who only has two scenes in the movie, has drawn a lot of praise for those two scenes.
Clocking in at 134 minutes, This Is 40 has received criticism for being too long, like most of Apatow's movies. But unlike those movies, This Is 40 has been taking guff for being a little aimless and ambling plot-wise. Scott Tobias at NPR sums it up:
"On the most basic level of plotting, [Apatow's movies are] about characters embarking on a clearly defined journey — to lose their virginity, to get through the nine months to delivery, to either die or recover from cancer.
Now consider the premise of Apatow's new film, This Is 40: A married couple with kids reaches middle age. That's not a journey, that's an existential crisis, and it gets Apatow into trouble this time."
Not employing as clear of a through line or goal for the characters is definitely the biggest criticism being leveled at This Is 40, but the writing and Apatow's observations on family life have drawn praise. The LA Times says, "The kid issues — the fighting, the Facebooking, the growing pains — are so spot on you almost forget the language." Peter Travers adds to the general consensus on the film: "It sometimes dawdles as it circles the spectacle of a marriage in flux. Yet Pete and Debbie's sparring yields some of Apatow's most personal observations yet on the feelings for husbands, wives, parents, and children that we categorize as love."
So, come for the performances, stay for 134 minutes.