December 16, 2012 -- Judd Apatow is the master of vulgar humor, directing funny movies like “Knocked Up” and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” and producing many other similar comedies. With this film, Apatow has gone far beyond vulgar humor to explore the nature of love, marriage, parenthood and family relationships in some depth, while still keeping the humor.
I kept waiting for the clunking sound of the usual plot points: the sudden stroke of luck that solves the family's financial problems, the sudden revelation that solves the family's emotional problems, the moocher who finally grows up, but the plot is not that simple. It gets more interesting as it goes on and it deepens in complexity.
Paul Rudd of “Dinner for Schmucks” stars as Pete, a 40-year-old husband and father who is having major financial problems running his own record label. He's backing recording artists he loves who are no longer popular. His wife, Debbie (played by Leslie Mann) lies about her age. She runs a dress shop with an employee who is stealing money from her. She is also 40. Their oldest daughter, Sadie (Maude Apatow of “Knocked Up”) is a hormone-driven drama queen. Their youngest daughter, Charlotte (Iris Apatow) just wants to get noticed. Pete's father, Larry (Albert Brooks of “Drive”) is a deadbeat dad, shamelessly mooching money from his son. Debbie's largely absentee father, Oliver (John Lithgow of “Dreamgirls”) is distant and has no sense of humor.
The first part of the movie feels like a standard vulgar comedy with sex jokes and fart jokes, the usual Apatow stuff, but then it goes a lot deeper into the characters and examines the relationships and problems from a lot of different angles. It becomes more interesting as it goes along and gets deeper and more complex. Unlike most comedies that feature some kind of resolution to the problems presented, if not an outright happy ending, this one offers no easy solutions at the end. The characters continue to bumble along with their funny, flawed, messy lives, doing the best they can.
I found this movie very uneven. Some of it is very funny, other parts were more serious, straying into drama. Some of the jokes hit the mark, others missed, but the characters were well-drawn and interesting. I found the character of Larry to be unbelievable, a caricature really, but it's Albert Brooks in that role and he is a perfect fit. He manages to make this obnoxious character charming. This funny-sad, hit-and-miss movie is as messy as life itself, which is either funny, or not. This film rates a B.
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