The Unbearable Dullness of Judd Apatow

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This Is 40 is one of those rare films that is so unforgivingly awful, it’s worth watching. What was apparently intended to be a quirky peek at Judd Apatow’s real-life family is so universally hated, it’s actually bringing people together.

The first time I saw the movie, I fell asleep. As I drifted off, I remember my pregnant wife punching the couch in a rage. She was furious she had stayed awake this long and was going to be tired all day for a film that was so ponderous, it makes Wuthering Heights look like a Tweet. The second time I saw it, I was with pals and instead of pounding the couch in a rage, we stared at each other with golf balls for eyes and shrieked, “Where’s the fucking plot!?” It was fun.

We soon realized that watching this film isn’t a chore. It’s a challenge. Like trying to finish Sean Penn’s essay about Hugo Chavez, making it to the end of This Is 40 was a sign of macho endurance. After the film was finally over, we sat around and discussed all the things we would rather do than watch the film again. I came up with: give a homeless man a very meticulous haircut, step on a cat barefoot until it suffocated, and smoke seven cigarettes back-to-back (I don’t smoke).

Virtually everyone I spoke to about this film cannot believe this celluloid turd is from the same guy who created the groundbreaking comedic masterpiece Freaks & Geeks and then went on to do The 40 Year Old VirginSuperbadPineapple ExpressForgetting Sarah MarshallGet Him to the GreekWanderlust, and Bridesmaids. All of those are so fun to watch, they’re almost action movies.

This is why it’s so shocking to see him create the 133-minute torture chamber that is this film. As Richard Roeper pointed out, the torture porn Zero Dark Thirty crammed in ten years of tracking bin Laden in less time. And bin Laden was more likeable. I’m pretty sure the only people who can relate to these characters are the characters themselves. Hey non-overweight husbands, don’t you hate it when your wife screams “Stop eating cupcakes” so often you have to eat sweets out of the garbage? Hey dads, aren’t you annoyed by how often your wife refuses to go to a “Western” doctor when your daughter has an excruciating ear infection?

This movie contains virtually no plot and the dialogue sounds like granny just called asking if the kids had done anything adorable today. “I’m OK with nightmares,” says his darling daughter (his real-life daughter) to her older sister before adding, “You’re a nightmare every day for me.” Aaaaw, what a witty wittle angel. Oh look, she’s playing the theme song to The Office on her Casio. Oh my Lord in heaven above, she’s using her iPhone to make a monkey face. Dude, everyone loves their kids. That’s why the human race is not extinct. However, what you find cute, the rest of us find nauseating.

Did he not get the memo? The universal rules for conversation are: Don’t talk about your kids, your pets, your job, or the dream you had last night. We know you like those things. We all do. But we abstain from foisting our personal lives on everyone else. Did Judd Apatow not notice that there is more than one “World’s Greatest Grandma” mug for sale? She’s not literally the best grandmother in the entire world, you asshole. Statistically, the odds are that she’s somewhere around the middle. This Is 40 is a “World’s Greatest Family” mug from which no one wants to drink. Stop stabbing me in the eyes with your Pinterest, Hollywood. Gimme a story!

This Is 40 rambles on and on with way too many ad libs and no plot until you feel like a family pet that can understand English. I’d probably like it if I was in the hospital for six weeks and had no visitors. It’s more like watching the box set of a TV show such as Six Feet Under or Parenthood but with a level of intimacy so severe, you feel like you’re a reality-show producer. “I do not want to investigate your anus!” screams Apatow’s real-life wife at her husband as he examines one of his hemorrhoids. I found myself screaming the same thing as we joined the character for her colonoscopy exam and then sat with Paul Rudd as he got a finger up his ass. The writer isn’t telling us a story. He’s mooning us. When his wife says they need more passion, he farts—four times! At least when the Wayans Brothers let 14 consecutive farts go in White Chicks they were doing it in public and it was kind of relevant to the plot. Why is Judd Apatow ramming my head up his family’s ass?

The lesson behind this celluloid accident is clear: Don’t get too wrapped up in your own little bubble. I understand how it happens. Fame is a crazy beast that leaves you almost no choice but to sequester yourself in a compound. You want to be honest and write about what you know, but when you don’t interact with humanity, you don’t know anything.

In After America, Mark Steyn implores writers to get out there and experience the real world. He says, “Don’t just write there, do something.” Storytelling is about imparting an experience to those of us who don’t have the time or the resources to experience it ourselves. We always knew good art comes from sufferingThis Is 40 proves bad art comes from success.

ORIGINALLY PRINTED AT TAKIMAG

-GAVIN McINNES

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