Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. USA, 2012. Apatow Productions. Screenplay by Judd Apatow, based on his characters. Cinematography by Phedon Papamichael. Produced by Judd Apatow, Barry Mendel, Clayton Townsend. Music by Jon Brion. Production Design by Jefferson Sage. Costume Design by Leesa Evans. Film Editing by David L. Bertman, Jay Deuby, Brent White. Phoenix Film Critics Awards 2012.
The years since the success of Knocked Up have defied expectations: male lead Seth Rogen is too busy laughing at his own jokes to create anything worthwhile, and starlet Katherine Heigl has managed to perform in every execrable romantic comedy that every other actress in Hollywood has turned down. The sideline story of the original film, Leslie Mann as Heigl’s frustrated sister and Paul Rudd as her Peter Panning husband, was the more sympathetic and amusing, making that couple the deserved focus of this semi-sequel by Judd Apatow. Seven years after the events of the original we catch up with them and their children (played by Mann and Apatow’s real-life daughters Maude and Iris) on the verge of their fortieth birthdays. The couple are at an impasse in their lives: they are neither old nor young, she is not willing to admit to her age while he has an obsession with eating every pastry put in front of him. Their children are growing and dealing with the difficulties of adolescence, with the modern world of technological connectivity making it that much more difficult to keep control over what teenaged children receive from the world and how they react to it. Rudd’s business is starting to suffer, his inability to make a good sale off the comeback of Graham Parker (in a charming cameo as himself) threatening to swamp his business, while Mann is having to deal with money going missing from her store and suspecting that her hot young employee (Megan Fox) is stealing it. It’s not a film that deals with an easily identifiable central crisis; Apatow wisely shows the process of muddling through the many things that couples have to deal with in order to keep their relationship afloat and does not insult his viewers by insisting that one knot once undone will put everything back on track. That said, what he presents isn’t consistently insightful or complicated and there’s no denying that the film is only fitfully funny and definitely too long. Some sections work well, particularly when he has the couple spar with each other (even if they have about two more fights than they need to by the end), while tangents including Mann’s estranged relationship with her father (John Lithgow) and Rudd’s inability to deal with his deadbeat dad (Albert Brooks) are given more attention than they need. Having Apatow’s own brood portraying the film’s children is a clever conceit, and there’s no denying that these lasses are comfortable working in the family business, but Maude’s whining eventually becomes shrill and you eventually wish you could you just turn her off. There’s a strange combination of flavours that does not quite gel here: the painfully witty reality of Mann trying to give her husband a Good Morning blow job while their children scream and bang away at the bedroom door is in a different movie from scenes like Melissa McCarthy‘s cameo as an angry parent whose improvisational, profanity-laced speeches, while hilarious, are straight out of a Saturday Night Live movie. It’s an awkward mélange of intentions, and an attempt to include all of life’s wonderful details in one movie bursting at the seams with its tangents, but there are enough moments of sympathy to keep you from regretting the time.