By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood December 1, 2012 at 3:59PM
With "This is 40," Judd Apatow's fourth feature film as a writer-director, the prolific producer ("Girls," "Pineapple Express," "Freaks and Geeks") has never been more in control of his medium. This relationship comedy returns to Pete and Debbie, the Los Angeles married couple introduced in "Knocked Up" (Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd). It's tight, concise, hilarious, painful and spot-on accurate.
Apatow's last film "Funny People," while often brilliant, seemed meandering and out-of-control. This time he's the master, balancing cringe-worthy embarrassing moments--often crude, the film is R-rated for multiple uses of the F and C-word--with honest, well-observed hilarity about suburban family life. John Lithgow and Albert Brooks as Debbie and Pete's respective fathers are both superb. If Academy voters weren't so biased against comedy--and this year's Oscar race wasn't so packed with high-end Oscar frontrunners, their supporting performances and Apatow's screenplay might score noms.
Variety: "Judd Apatow's instincts have rarely been sharper, wiser or more relatable than in "This Is 40," an acutely perceptive, emotionally generous laffer about the joys and frustrations of marriage and middle age. Boasting the empathy, texture and underlying seriousness that have characterized the filmmaker's output, this warts-and-all family portrait is anchored by splendid turns from Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann."
Film: "It is overblown and unwieldy and has more than its share of misfires. It also has moments of absolute perfection that will have a universal and timeless resonance. Most importantly, it is a pure, maximalist representation of a gifted artist simultaneously at the top of his game and looking to expand the form."
HitFix: "It would be hard to not recognize yourself in some part of this film, and while your specifics may not exactly match what you see onscreen, this is as honest and observational as mainstream comedy gets these days."
MCN: "Paul Rudd is terrific here, as usual, but it’s Leslie Mann who steals the show. As with other elements in the film, her character starts in reality, stretches to the edge on incredulity, and then bounces back into a warm, thoughtful, truthful place. It’s like watching a tightrope walker dancing in midair, sure to fall at any moment, but always finding her balance. It’s a special performance, all the more so because she seems completely invested… no sweat. An Oscar nomination should not be considered a long shot."
THR: "a two-hour wobble between the honestly funny and the downright unbearable. Truth be told, there is more that's hard to take in the first half and more hilarity in the second, which is a good thing, but it remains unclear whether the filmmaker would recognize the difference between the two,..There's not a weak or false note struck by the cast, as everyone (including his family, of course, as well as Apatow-world regulars and newcomers like Brooks, Lithgow, Fox and Melissa McCarthy) gets on the live-wire wavelength."