“This Is 40” is a midlife crisis movie. The twist is that it’s a marriage having the crisis. We last saw Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) advising Debbie’s sister Alison for better and mostly worse in “Knocked Up” (2007), a breakthrough film for writer-director Judd Apatow. There, the two served as an antic Greek chorus; here they’re the whole show. (The first film’s stars, Katherine Heigl and Seth Rogen, are nowhere to be seen.)
The movie’s a contradiction in terms — a personal Hollywood comedy — predicated on commonality of experience. Apatow, who has been slowly moving in this direction since 2009’s “Funny People,” knows that many of us will relate to his pair of frazzled married-with-kids, their lies and subterfuges, the way they hate each other while yearning for the days when they loved each other like crazy. The director is reaching so deeply into his own mishegoss that he has again cast his wife, Mann, and their two daughters, Iris and Maude, as the couple’s children. It seems almost ungentlemanly for Apatow to insist a well-groomed Hollywood actor play himself. Dude, man up!