Like "Knocked Up," "This Is 40" is vulgar, funny, truer than false, and incisive in a very domestic way. It is by, for and about family.
Knowing that Judd Apatow has a hairy hand in the production -- not only of the film but also of the people who star in it -- means knowing that this is not a film the Disney Studios would animate or even acknowledge. "This Is 40" includes the shocking fact that people sit on the toilet and play with their iPads when they've told their spouses that they're busy. "This Is 40" includes the secrets and lies that grown-ups tell, hoping that their children won't cotton to what big, fat liars their parents are as they wag their fingers and threaten lying children with punishment for the very same thing they do every danged day.
One of those adult lies is about age. Pete is getting ready to celebrate the fat 4-0. Debbie's birthday precedes his by a few days, but she's going to be only 38. She insists on that. But something about her insistence is a tell that her pants are on fire, too. Debbie runs a store that is missing $12,000. Pete runs a music production company that is trying to make gold from a golden oldie, Graham Parker. Things are not going well in the money department. Nor in the sex department. Nor in the parenting department -- the darling daughters include a teen-ager, yikes! But "This Is 40" is not a tragedy. These negatives give rise to conversation and argument and dialogue and kisses -- and body language and bawdy talk.
Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann were born to these roles of people just trying their hardest. Mann is married to the director/writer, Judd Apatow, and the daughters are played by their daughters, Iris and Maude, who repeat their roles from "Knocked Up" and who are naturals at acting.
Also along for the ride are Jason Segal, as Debbie's personal trainer; Melissa McCarthy, as a foul-mouthed parent of a buck-toothed boy letch; and Charlene Yi, a store clerk who imitates Golum perfectly. But John Lithgow, as Debbie's distant dad, and Albert Brooks, as Pete's mooching father, are the best of the supporting cast, fitting in to the Apatow company as if they're spent their acting lives in this milieu. They are wonderful to watch as they add complexity to the lives of these 40-somethings. "This Is 40" balances silliness with reality, like life.