This Is 40 is only the fourth feature film directed by Apatow (following The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Funny People), but he has tickled our funny bones onscreen as a producer (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Superbad, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Bridesmaids) and a writer (Fun with Dick and Jane, You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, Pineapple Express).
Norman (voiced by Kodi
Smit-McPhee) really sees dead people and they happen to be his only
friends in the world. The pre-teen years sure can be a drag, but
when a return of the living dead threatens
to take over an entire community, it’s up to Norman and a ragtag crew
of friends and family to set things straight.
Plenty of contemporary animated features are trying so hard to be clever that they forget to be fundamentally enjoyable — and as for the emotional depth, we can appreciate Pixar's impressive track record without dismissing everything that doesn't live up to that standard. 'Rio' manages to be entertaining by working within an unlikely formula: making something that's fun for kids, in the style of movies that their parents would have watched when they were kids. Grade: B.
Writer/director Judd Apatow raises the stakes on his already stellar formula for generating laughs with a comedy that's equal parts sincerity and wit. This is by far Adam Sandler's best movie because Apatow writes comic set pieces that allow germs of humor to expand between the more obvious laughs that Sandler hits with sharp-shooter accuracy. Grade: A-.
You might wonder why it was necessary to add '17 Again' to Hollywood's long list of "body swap" comedies over the last 25 years, but I have a theory about such genre fare. At some point in the rise of every young would-be star, the movie industry needs to figure out if they've really got what it takes. Grade: C.