"This Is 40" is a Judd Apatow film, so it's no surprise it starts with a sex scene.

But unlike his hits "Knocked Up" and "Superbad," his latest film focuses on the lives of an older crowd. So the inevitable awkwardness of the situation comes from the use of pharmaceuticals rather than prophylactics.

"We are young people. We don't need medication to have sex," Debbie (Leslie Mann) lectures her husband, Pete (Paul Rudd), when she discovers he decided to surprise her on her birthday with some Viagra action.

Of course, Debbie and Pete aren't exactly young. Debbie's birthday is her 40th. Debbie is so insistent on not being 40 that her denial when someone mentions it is as fast as a reflex. "I'm not 40!" she says even to her husband, who knows better.

On screen
'This is 40'
3.5 out of 4 stars
Stars: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann
Director: Judd Apatow
Rated: R for sexual content, crude humor, pervasive language and some drug material
Running time: 134 minutes

Turning 40 has many women questioning the choices they've made in their lives, which are often pretty irreversible by that time. And men, too -- Pete is turning 40 himself. But circumstances here lead to a bigger blowout than usual. Pete has been lending his ne'er-do-well father, Larry (Albert Brooks), money at the same time his record label is failing. The couple and their two daughters might lose their house.

Such midlife crises are more than familiar to moviegoers, but Apatow makes it new by making it real. Pete and Debbie will have a knockdown, drag-out fight -- rather than the warmed-over complaining many movies show -- and then wonder what started the row in the first place. Instead of a skeptical wife learning that her husband always had his heart in the right place, Pete admits with candor, "People think I'm such a nice guy, but I'm such a dick." We even see a graphic mammogram.

Apatow also shows a type of family problem that's becoming more common, though seldom shown on screen -- men starting second families. Both Pete's and Debbie's fathers have done so with second wives. There's some real heartbreak involved -- and, of course, comedy. "My daddy's old!" Larry's young son exclaims. "My daddy doesn't know my name!" says another of the test-tube triplets, whom the older Larry has trouble telling apart.

"This Is 40" is a comedy that tackles some big issues. It's not a great, serious film. It is a little meandering at times, though its subplots are spot on: Megan Fox, for example, is fun as a hot employee at Debbie's boutique who dresses far more expensively than her pay would allow her.

But life is meandering, too, I suppose. Pete and Debbie might not be your typical couple worried how the recession will affect them -- they own a BMW and a Lexus, after all, and live in sunny California. But their concerns are those just about everyone will one day face. And Apatow knows just how to make us laugh at things we might otherwise dread.