This Is 40 Review (Kirk Haviland)

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This Is 40 (2012)

Starring Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Megan Fox, Maude Apatow, Iris Apatow, Chris O’Dowd, Jason Segel, Melissa McCarthy, Graham Parker, Lena Dunham, Annie Mumolo, Robert Smigel, Charlyne Yi, Lisa Darr with John Lithgow and Albert Brooks

Written and Directed by Judd Apatow

With This is 40, Judd Apatow’s latest directorial effort, we delve back in to the world that he created years ago with “Knocked Up”, this time focusing on the lives of Pete and Debbie instead of Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigel’s Ben and Allison. In fact Rogen and Heigl are completely missing from the entire film this time around. The real question is can Apatow craft a successful follow up to “Knocked Up” by going a completely different direction with it?

Five years after “Knocked Up” introduced us to Pete (Rudd) and Debbie (Mann), we are re-introduced to the couple approaching a milestone in each of their lives in This Is 40. After years of marriage, Pete lives in a house of all females, wife Debbie and their two daughters, eight-year-old Charlotte (Iris Apatow) and 13-year-old Sadie (Maude Apatow).  As Pete struggles to keep his record label afloat, Debbie is trying to figure out which of her employees is stealing from her clothing store and both are trying to figure out how to cope with turning the big 4 O. We follow the couple through three weeks between Debbie and Pete’s birthdays and bear witness to the trials and tribulations that come out of a couple struggling to reignite and continue their romance well past 40.

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This is 40 is in many ways a mess of a film, but it does enough to get the job done. The script is very biographical in nature, with some flights of fancy thrown in for effect, but sadly comes in around half-hour too long. The story seems a natural and logical progression of the main characters from “Knocked Up”, and it’s the core family sections that work the best. The biggest issue is the decision to completely ignore the fact that Katherine Heigl played Mann’s sister in “Knocked Up”. With Apatow just ignoring the fact that Heigl and Rogen are missing in this follow up, it ends up hanging like a cloud over the entire film. But even without Heigl and Rogen appearing, even ignoring the existence of the previous movie all-together, this movie has major issues. Everything associated with Debbie`s store is superfluous and unrealistic. Debbie and Desi’s (Fox) night on the town, complete with the roster of the Philadelphia Flyers in tow, is quite ridiculous and only there to mirror the very similar scene from Knocked Up. Add in a random “biological” father to showing up in Debbie’s life (thus making sure he is NOT the father of Heigl’s character from the previous film as well) and adding Albert Brooks trying to deliver “the most Jewish performance of all time” as Rudd’s father doesn’t work either.

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Mann and Rudd are good here, and mange to keep the train on the tracks. Megan Fox, Lithgow, Segal and O’Dowd are solid here, even if there characters make little sense in the film’s context. The real issues here are Yi and Brooks. While normally I would be fawning over Brooks in a movie, his performance here looks like Apatow spent the time with Brooks in bewilderment instead of reeling him in, and his performance is almost insufferable because of it. And Yi is pretty terrible here, her act is starting to wear thin and despite serious implications against her character she is never more than a punch line. Apatow’s daughters as the daughters in the film show real chemistry, but since they are sisters and are acting with their real life mom Mann, this should hardly be surprising. That said, when it comes to having to go more dramatic in parts, his eldest Maude shows she is out of her league as she is not convincing in the slightest. Melissa McCarthy, in not much more than a glorified cameo, rips every scene that she is in away from everyone around her as she is one of the funniest parts of the film. In fact make sure to stick around into the credits as there is an outtake sequence of McCarthy’s scene which may be the funniest part of the film.

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While flawed and with multiple issues, This Is 40 is still laugh out loud funny in many parts, and the stuff around the family core is actually pretty solid. Despite its shortcomings This is 40 is still a recommend.

Movie Junkie TO

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ParaNorman DVD Review (Kirk Haviland)

ParaNorman DVD

Starring the voices of Cody Smit-McPhee, Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin and John Goodman

Written by Chris Butler

Directed by Chris Butler and Sam Fell

New this week on DVD and Blu-Ray from Alliance Films is the stop motion animated wonder, from the same studio that brought us Henry Selick’s Coraline, which scared up some decent box office this summer, ParaNorman. Directors Chris Butler and Sam Fell bring us the story of a boy with the gift to talk to the deceased and a mission to fulfill. So what does the DVD have in store for us?

Norman Babcock (Smit-McPhee) is an awkward child with an extraordinary gift, he can see and converse with ghosts. Norman regularly converses with his dead grandmother, much to the exasperation of his incredulous father (Garlin), mother (Mann) and his sister Courtney (Kendrick). An outcast at school, Norman is constantly tormented by Alvin (Mintz-Plasse) and his cronies, and is constantly made fun of over his gift. But when the anniversary of a heinous act in his town’s history approaches, Norman’s estranged Uncle Prenderghast (Goodman) tracks him down as Norman must take over his role in order to save the day. But when all hell breaks loose it’s up to Norman, his friend Neil (Albrizzi), Neil’s hulking brother Mitch (Affleck), Courtney and Alvin to save the day and put everything right.

ParaNorman is a film that actually works even better at home. It remains a smart film that doesn’t pander to the audience while never getting scary enough to truly frighten its target audience. The script is smart with the more adult targeted humor playing better on the small screen. The story does borrow from films like the Sixth Sense quite a bit, but the endearingness of Norman and his friends more than compensates for some of the more familiar story beats.  The animation style works extremely well and the stop-motion is fantastic. It does not try to be anywhere near photo-realistic thankfully and I found it very reminiscent of the old Rankin/Bass TV specials I grew up on and still watch around Christmas every year. Directors Butler and Fell keep the film tightly paced and on target as it clocks in at a satisfying 93 minutes. The actors performing the voice work all work well here, especially our leads Norman and Neil along with Norman’s perfectly casted parents. Kendrick’s work as Courtney is really solid here as well, as the nuances of her character play better on the small screen.

The DVD is packed with a ton of great features to check out as they really go deep behinds the scenes and into all aspects of the production. We get a feature length commentary track going into all aspects of the filming with Directors Butler and Fell along with some pre-visual animatic sequences used for the filming. At around 40 minutes in total, the multi segmented Behind the Scenes package “Peering through the Veil” is full of informative and fun facts. And if that weren’t enough there are 7 additional featurettes covering other aspects of the film. A great pack for adult and child alike.

Sure to be present under many a Christmas tree this year, if you can hold out that long, ParaNorman is a treat and delight for the entire family. Loaded with special features and featuring a brilliant crisp and clean digital transfer, the DVD really becomes a can’t lose package. Based on this, ParaNorman on DVD is a must buy DVD and will be a fun holiday watch for the whole family.

You can read my original ParaNorman review HERE

Also Noteworthy : Rise of the Guardians Review  and Wolf Children Review

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

Make sure to keep up with what’s going on at Entertainment Maven by liking our Facebook page and having updates delivered right to your Facebook News Feed. It’s the only way to stay on top of all of our articles with the newest blockbusters and all the upcoming films, festivals and film related events in Toronto.

Follow me directly on twitter @moviejunkieto and by liking my Facebook page at Movie Junkie TO

Email me at moviejunkieto@gmail.com

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