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By KAREN MARTIN Special to the Democrat-Gazette

This article was published March 22, 2013 at 2:44 a.m.

This Is 40

Judd Apatow

(R 134 minutes)

Comedy-drama This Is 40 catches up with Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann), who showed up in director Judd Apatow’s 2007 film Knocked Up. It’s about five years after Pete and Debbie demonstrated the ups and downs of marriage to another couple (Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl) who are contemplating taking the same step.

Pete, who now owns a record label, and Debbie (played by Apatow’s wife), who owns a clothing boutique, remain on rocky would only be problematic to people with too much money and not enough actual woes. Their two spoiled children (Judd and Leslie’s kids, Maude and Iris Apatow) are similarly afflicted. And it doesn’t help that both Pete and Debbie are about to turn 40. In the course of planning a lavish birthday bash for Pete (Debbie refuses to celebrate, trying to maintain the lie that she’s merely 38), offhand remarks and long-harnessed reactions to those quietly annoying behaviors that are common in any relationship escalate into spectacular and often idiotic battles.

The relationship isn’t all they have to worry about. Pete and Debbie still live in the out-of-their-league Beverly Hills house from Knocked Up, but since Pete’s boutique record label is stubbornly dedicated to the none-too-popular guitar-driven post-punk indie rock of his youth, the label is failing. Pete can’t find a way to tell Debbie about their impending fiscal cliff. Besides, she’s too busy telling everyone she knows that she suspects an employee in her Melrose Avenue clothing boutique (Megan Fox) of embezzlement.

Both Debbie and Pete have troublesome dads - Pete’s (Albert Brooks) is a guilt-tripping freeloader with a young wife and feral triplets, while Debbie’s (John Lithgow) is a cool WASP long estranged from the daughter of his first marriage. Along with constantly fighting with her 8-year-old sister, Pete and Debbie’s teenage daughter is dealing with a classmate’s inappropriate cyber-stalking. This leads to one of the film’s funniest moments, a principal’s office confrontation with the kid’s mom (Melissa McCarthy from 2011’s Bridesmaids).

Along with other familiar faces, Apatow regulars Jason Segel and Chris O’Dowd show up now and then to exchange wisecracks, then wander out of the frame.

Does this sound like a lot of dithering that goes nowhere? Correct, and it’s up to you how much you find to enjoy here. There’s plenty to choose from - like every Apatow movie, This Is 40 is at least a half-hour too long. “This Is 40 seems less like a coherent movie than a series of ideas scribbled hastily down on cocktail napkins and filmed immediately,” says our film critic Philip Martin. “There are a couple of inspired moments, a terrible gross-out scene and lots of little crude fillips that don’t quite add up to jokes. It’s a collection of demos, obviously inessential but interesting to the cultists.”

Other recent Blu-ray releases:

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (PG-13, 169 minutes) For those who aren’t yet exhausted by The Lord of the Rings films, here is the story that started it all: Young hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) sets out from his peaceful home in the Shire on an unexpected journey with 13 dwarves led by mighty warrior Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) to the Lonely Mountain to reclaim their lost kingdom of Erebor from a cranky dragon named Smaug. “For all their Wagnerian bombast, the LOTR films proceeded at a clip, with lots of story to tell and spirited new characters lurking around every bend,” says critic Scott Foundas in The Village Voice. “The Hobbit, by contrast, feels distinctly like a members-only affair.”

Zero Dark Thirty (R, 157 minutes) Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty is a chronicle of the 10-year hunt for Osama bin Laden, led by an intense CIA agent (Jessica Chastain) in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. “As entertainment, Zero Dark Thirty is a great accomplishment - a somber, black-winged benediction for what we might count as a lost decade,” says Philip Martin. “Even though we know how it ends, we are enthralled by the way the story is spooled out. Though the movie is nearly three hours long, Bigelow has an uncanny sense of pacing and rhythm, which is never more evident than in the film’s most audacious set piece, an almost unbearably tense, moment-by-moment re-creation of the raid on bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.”

Badlands (PG, 95 minutes) Director Terrence Malick’s beautiful 1973 film debut, based on the real-life murderers Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate, was selected in 1993 for inclusion in the U.S. National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.” It’s the story of teenage narrator Holly (Sissy Spacek), living in a dreary South Dakota town, and her relationship with Kit (Martin Sheen), who charms her into accompanying him on a murderous Midwest crime journey. “Achingly evocative of a time when Hollywood had the courage to invest in complex and morally ambiguous films and an indisputable masterpiece of American cinema,” says critic Rob Fraser in Empire Magazine.

MovieStyle, Pages 33 on 03/22/2013

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