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Law Review: This is 40

Submitted by on January 29 – 2013No Comment

This Is the Apatow family’s Video Christmas Card. Judd Apatow, the writer/director/producer known for career-making hits like “The 40 Year Old Virgin,” wrote and directed this film, which features his own wife and two daughters as a wife and two daughters in a Los Angeles family struggling with first world problems. Leslie Mann stars opposite Paul Rudd, with both actors reprising their roles from Apatow’s previous comedy, “Knocked Up.” Whereas Rudd and Mann got peripheral treatment in that 2007 film (as did Apatow and Mann’s daughters, Maude and Iris), the whole clan gets center stage this time around. This is fitting, because Mann and her girls are hard not to like on screen.  Rudd is also at his affable best as a record company entrepreneur who feels increasingly overwhelmed by his finances, his family and the daunting number of X chromosomes in his house. Old friend of the family Jason Segel returns for a few winning scenes, as do more recent veterans of the Apatow oeuvre like Chris O’Dowd and Melissa McCarthy.

As delightful as it is to watch all this chemistry unfold, Mr. Apatow was too generous to his family and friends in the editing room. The film runs too long for a comedy that rests so hard on crotch jokes. Give Apatow credit, though, for avoiding predictable plot twists, and for letting talented supporting characters play to their strengths. Some of the strongest dialogue appears to be ad libbed, or at least partially improvised by the strong comedic cast. However, all of this pretty good material eats up a lot of clock, leaving the audience a little too impatient to empathize with Rudd’s character as he cries over money in his BMW, or Mann as she pretends to find flaws in her model-quality figure. The fact that Megan Fox has to walk around half naked just to give Mann’s character an excuse to feel self-conscious highlights one of many dubious personal conflicts in the film. That is not to say a comedy like this need be as credible as “Little Miss Sunshine,” but with more than two hours of run time it ought to have something more compelling to say.

Cyclists, however, will find that the film does present some compelling issues regarding the rules of the road. For instance: Who is at fault when a bicycle rider slams headfirst into an opening car door? Does it matter if this occurs outside of the established bike lane? According to Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP, a California personal injury firm specializing in bicycle law, the state of California requires a parked motorist to ensure that it is reasonably safe to open a car door before doing so into the path of moving traffic—including bicycle traffic outside of the bike lane. A motorist who opens his door without looking and thereby injures a cyclist may be liable unless he can present evidence of extenuating circumstances to defeat the presumption of negligence. Cyclists, on the other hand, are just as responsible for the safe operation of their vehicles as motorists, and must take reasonable precautions to avoid collisions. Otherwise, all the consequences of “getting doored” might be on them.

“This Is 40” also stars Albert Brooks, John Lithgow, Robert Smigel and Lena Dunham. It is rated “R” for sexual content, crude humor, pervasive language and some drug material. It is two hours and fourteen minutes long. It will probably appeal to fans of dramatic family comedies like “The Descendants” (although it lacks the seriousness of that 2011 hit) and it will please but not surprise most Apatow partisans. It will probably not appeal to people who strongly disapprove of cursing by, at, or around children.

–Austin Murnane