Judd Apatow is an acquired taste. You either like his films or you don’t and there is very little grey area in between. However, while audiences and critics embraced his 2007 hit “Knocked Up,” they aren’t as fond of its follow-up “This is 40,” which based on a soft box office showing looks to be experiencing some growing pains.
The idea for a “sort-of” sequel was actually not a bad idea. “Knocked Up” was a surprise summer hit and helped launch the film career of co-star Katherine Heigl (before her “Grey’s Anatomy” exit promptly derailed it not long after). Created by Apatow, the characters in “Knocked Up” were just the right mix of funny and believable. USA Today’s Claudia Puig even praised the ensemble as a group of “endearing and relatable characters who spout believable dialogue and amusing banter.”
Fast forward to 2012 and Apatow decided to do a follow-up but this time focusing on Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann’s well-received supporting characters. It also doesn’t hurt that Mann is Apatow’s real-life wife and the couple’s two daughters also have roles in both films.
Yet this time moviegoers aren’t as into the movie which is evident by looking at today’s box office report that has it in third with just $12 million. While that’s actually better than a few similar films did historically in this holiday slot, it still could have been higher.
Some of that difference could probably be attributed to critics being a little harsher on the overall project (including Puig).
“There are moments of perception and sweetness, as per usual with Apatow movies. It’s just too bad the movie’s trajectory is formless and jokes built around petty marital resentments sometimes fall flat.” Claudia Puig, USA Today
“At times ‘This is 40’ is brutally funny and brutally honest. Just as often, it’s painfully shrill and unpleasant.” – Richard Roeper
“‘This Is 40’ tends to be about the self-inflicted problems of spoiled upper-middle class white people. Which can be sort of funny, sure. Sort of.” Tom Long, Detroit News
Long’s point actually hits the mark the closest as while “Knocked Up” was centered on slackers with little income, “40” is centered on more affluent individuals. Audiences have shown they aren’t as interested in watching rich people bicker. Yes, they may enjoy seeing more well-to-do people squirm, but those people are still at the end day living a more privileged life.
Many may also not like that the film because it doesn’t tie everything up with a nice little bow as Apatow did in 2007. They also may not be pleased that Apatow isn’t trying to sugar coat anything about family and life in general. However it’s important to remember that’s just his style and for the most part it works in the long run, which is something a number of other top critics understand.
“There are a lot of loose ends and a few forced conclusions. But, then again, the acceptance of imperfection is Mr. Apatow’s theme, so a degree of sloppiness is to be expected. That’s life.” A.O. Scott, New York Times
“We aren’t used to comedies that make us squirm like this. That doesn’t mean they aren’t worth our time. This Is 40 is.” Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic
“’This Is 40’ isn’t always hilarious, but it’s ticklishly honest and droll about all the things being a parent can do to a relationship. And why it’s still worth it.” Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly
“This Is 40” may not pull the same $30 million opening weekend numbers as its predecessor, but that’s okay. Apatow has never been obsessed about making blockbusters; he’s more content to just put out a quality film and one that causes a conversation.
In this case, people are definitely talking.
So what’s your take New York? Will you check out the sequel? Hit the comments and let us know. Remember, don’t forget to subscribe to this column for all of the latest news about the holiday movie season.