Speaking of unlikely sequels, the first trailer for Judd Apatow’s highly anticipated This Is 40 just arrived today. The film catches up with Pete and Debbie, the married couple played by Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann in Knocked Up. The enormously promising cast includes familiar Apatow collaborators like Jason Segel, Melissa McCarthy, and Lena Dunham, as well as two veteran comedy greats new to the Apatow team: John Lithgow and Albert Brooks. This Is 40 continues the increasingly autobiographical direction of Apatow’s movies: The writer-director-producer has said that he mined his own experiences in creating Pete and Debbie, the latter of whom is played by Apatow’s wife, Leslie Mann. (What’s more, Pete and Debbie’s daughters are played by Apatow and Mann’s own children.)
Apatow is so prolific as a producer that it’s easy to forget that this is only his fourth feature film as a director. (And, oddly, half of those movies include the number 40 in the title.) Given his track record to this point—in addition to Knocked Up, his directorial efforts include The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Funny People—there are few movies arriving this year that I am more excited about.
So I will continue to hold out hope for the movie even though the trailer (apart from the excellent music) is somewhat uninspiring. The paucity of jokes is not in itself worrisome—this is clearly a less farcical effort than Apatow’s first two films, and it’s not about stand-up comics—but I wish the laugh lines that do appear landed better. And the absence of any obvious narrative arc is potentially encouraging: There is no obvious storyline that comes with reaching middle age, and—judging from the trailer, at least—it appears that Apatow has refrained from forcing one. As with the jokes, what storyline we do see worries me more than what we don’t: The “do better list” feels a bit tired as a comedy trope.
This Is 40 is scheduled to appear in theaters just before Christmas.