By CHRISTOPHER LAWRENCE
Las Vegas Review-Journal
There are two kinds of people in this world. Those who think the sight of Paul Rudd, legs splayed, trying to give himself a rectal exam using a makeup mirror and his iPhone is hilarious, and those I don’t want to know.
Rudd is the ideal Trojan horse for this type of comedy, especially when he’s paired with Leslie Mann, as he is once again in “This Is 40.”
Given their good looks and off-the-charts likability, they can get away with the sort of horribleness that mere mortals can’t. They’re the Bogie and Bacall of F-bombs.
So by the time “This Is 40” eventually goes wandering — though nothing as drastically off-the-rails as “Funny People,” writer-director Judd Apatow’s previous effort — the duo has built up so much good will, you won’t mind going along for the ride.
Billed as “the sort-of sequel to ‘Knocked Up,’” the slice-of-life comedy follows Rudd’s Pete and Mann’s Debbie — introduced five years ago as the brother-in-law and sister of Katherine Heigl’s character — during the week they both hit the big 4-0.
Except Debbie insists she’s only turning the big 3-8. “I don’t wanna shop at old lady stores. I don’t wanna go to J. Jill and Chico’s and Ann Taylor Loft. I’m not ready yet.”
The improvisational-feeling “This Is 40” catches up with them during a particularly rocky time in their marriage.
The record label Pete founded is in trouble, yet he still can’t stop filling his dad’s (Albert Brooks) perpetually outstretched hand with thousands of dollars in “loans.” Making matters worse, $12,000 is missing from Debbie’s boutique.
And the stress is beginning to show.
“We’re in one of those phases where everything that the other person says just annoys the (expletive) out of each other,” Pete admits. “All the time. It’s a blast.”
It’s not always that bad. Pete and Debbie still love each other, as best evidenced by their idyllic Laguna Beach getaway during which they laugh about the method each would use to murder the other. And that’s before they break into their year-old pot cookies.
“This Is 40” is a family affair for Apatow. Not only is he working with his real one — his wife, Mann, and their daughters, Maude and Iris, make up three-quarters of Pete’s household — he’s joined by his extended Hollywood family as well.
There’s Jason Segel and Charlyne Yi from “Knocked Up,” along with Melissa McCarthy, Chris O’Dowd and Annie Mumolo from “Bridesmaids” and Lena Dunham from HBO’s “Girls.”
That there are still enough laughs to go around for Apatow newcomers — Brooks, Robert Smigel, John Lithgow, Megan Fox and Megan Fox’s breasts — is both a blessing and its biggest flaw.
The rich, talented cast is given plenty of opportunity to shine. But, wow, does the movie go on. And on. Clocking in at 2 hours and 14 minutes, “This Is 40” risks being dismissed as “This Is 40 Minutes Too Long.”
But it’s funny and sad and messy. Just like life.
Pete sneaks cupcakes and longs for his fleeting moments of peace on the toilet.
With his daughters in the car, he shouts/sings/cries along with “Paradise By the Dashboard Light” — the “praying for the end of time, so I can end my time with you” part — with his mouth full of one of the breakfast sandwiches Debbie won’t let him eat.
And when Debbie and the girls complain about his interrupting their impromptu Nicki Minaj dance party to play some “real music” — in this case, Alice in Chains’ “Rooster” — you can practically taste his isolation even before he sighs, “Sometimes, I wish just one of you had a dick.”
In what feels like recasting his home movies, Apatow couldn’t have chosen a more perfect stand-in than Rudd.
You’re on his side from the comedy’s opening seconds, when Pete’s birthday present for Debbie — taking a Viagra before a passionate romp in the shower — goes horribly wrong.
And nobody’s better than Rudd at conveying the innocent joy of lying in bed, gazing into the eyes of the woman you love and farting.
Christopher Lawrence is the film critic for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.