This Is 40 (2012), directed by Judd Apatow

I hope I’m not alone in admitting I love Knocked Up. I recently read an article referring to it as a forgettable film. I disagree. Sure it’s no masterpiece, but it’s funny and charming and entertaining and makes me tear up every time. It’s one of a few films that I can’t turn the channel on whenever it’s on TV.

And I have a lot of love for Judd Apatow in general. Sure, his movies are manipulative, simplistic, unnecessarily crude, juvenile and narcissistic, but dammit if that’s not what I love about them. They always seem honest at least, that Apatow, bless him, puts his best intentions and complete effort behind every one of them. He was the common man, the nerd made big, one of us.

Well, fame may be taking its toll.

I was pretty jacked about This Is 40, Apatow’s “sort of” sequel to Knocked Up and the first film he’s directed since 2009′s under-appreciated Funny People.

Unfortunately, there are a few problems with the film.

For one thing, Apatow seems to have forgotten about plot with This is 40. I get that he’s going for a slice-of-life approach to these characters and is literally trying to get across what life is like at 40. Unfortunately these characters are not interesting or likable enough (unlike the leads in Knocked Up) to sustain that kind of approach and the film lacks a definable plot to bring it all together.

Awkward conversations, jokes about aging bodies and random moments of drama are fine, but without the glue of a plot holding it all together they drift about in a film that seems wayward at best and completely lost at its worst.

And, rant time, here’s why the characters aren’t likable: the film should have been called This is 40 if You’re White Upper-class and Californian.

I get that Apatow and Mann, his real-life wife (hello uncomfortable nudity), ARE white (or Jewish. Are Jewish people Caucasian? Is this a socially acceptable question?), upper-class and Californian. And he has every right film what he knows, it’s what I like about him. But this was hard to relate to.

For instance, if I was having money problems I think the first thing I would do is probably cancel the catering and champagne at my birthday party. And then sell the BMW. And the mansion. Just saying. If I lent my father $80,000 I myself would then be around $78,000 in debt. I assume most people would relate.

So to hear them worry about money and argue over whether their kids spend too much time on their own iPhones, iPads, iPods, iWhateverelses kind of made me want to slap them.

If Apatow realized this and made that a joke in itself I could relate to it, but he never bates a cinematic eyebrow as he tries to muster up sympathy for characters I would intentionally avoid at a social gathering. Don’t get me wrong, I would go to that birthday party, for the food and champagne. But I would leave before the cake.

This is 40 has its moments. Rudd and Mann, the actors, manage to still be occasionally likable playing insufferable people. Jason Segel and Chris O’Dowd are great for comic relief (although it’s a bad sign that a “comedy” needs notable comic-relief). There are some touching moments. Megan Fox’s notorious attractiveness is played to in occasionally hilarious ways.

But mostly it is an overlong, messy bit of work, lacking in direction, a point and, worst of all, appeal. I would say this is Apatow’s first major stumble as a director.

This is 40 is in cinemas now.