I like Judd Apatow, I really do. He’s Hollywood’s King of Comedy at the present moment and he’s there for good reason. Funny People may not be his most popular film but for me it’s his best, a challenging piece that grapples with substance. This is 40, on the other hand, attempts to be nothing more than an extended piece of observational comedy and it’s painfully bad.
Chief amongst its problems – it’s massively dominated by improvisation, and though Rudd and Mann are capable at delivering laughs they are certainly not good at improv. Imagine an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm without the narrative structure, as performed by your pet dogs. It’s kinda funny, kinda cute at first, but soon you’ll figure out that they’ll always resort to the same tricks.
What little structure there is – hidden away inside an aimless and seemingly endless flow of brown, sticky “comedy” – is just clichéd, lazy; Apatow leaning back on his own middleagedom as if it’ll provide a story, and on his justifiably uninspired actors as if one could generate a quality film by picking and choosing improvised lines according to test audience feedback. He’s pushed the boat too far, and with no real premise and the wrong actors, it was only ever going to be a disaster.