The 40-Year-Old Virgin
Director : s Judd Apatow
Screenplay : Judd Apatow & Steve Carell
MPAA Rating : R
Year of Release : 2005
Stars : Steve Carell (Andy Stitzer), Catherine Keener (Trish), Paul Rudd (David), Romany Malco (Jay), Seth Rogen (Cal), Elizabeth Banks (Beth), Leslie Mann (Nicky), Jane Lynch (Paula), Gerry Bednob (Mooj), Shelley Malil (Haziz)
Particularly in today's oversexed culture -- where you can't turn on the TV, open a magazine, or drive by a billboard without being barraged with imagery suggesting that the main occupation of people's lives is having sex -- being a 40-year-old virgin is something of a handicap. Andy Stitzer, the gentle-soul hero of The 40-Year-Old Virgin, is such a man, and it's hard to know whether his introverted geek lifestyle, which centers around working in the backroom of a home electronics store, cooking elaborate meals for one, and collecting lots of action toys, is the result or cause of his four decades sexual drought. In some ways, it's a moot point, because once this far down the road, it's a long way back.
Andy is played by Steve Carell, the former Daily Show correspondent who has demonstrated an impressive comedic range in the last few years, playing a backstabbing jerk in Bruce Almighty (2003), a borderline retarded weatherman in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004), and an obnoxiously inept office manager in the U.S. remake of the hit BBC series The Office. In The 40-Year-Old Virgin, which he cowrote with first-time director Judd Apatow (a veteran of TV's Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared), Carell creates a genuinely likable dork who is the object of constant ridicule, but is never unsympathetic. Many of the jokes come at Andy's expense, of course, but just as many come at the expense of those around him, which levels the playing field.
One of the smartest aspects of The 40-Year-Old Virgin is how it finds humor in the way certain single men think they have it all figured out, when in fact they are emotional wrecks. (Anyone who might accuse the movie of being sexist hasn't considered just how badly all the men are portrayed.) Andy is surrounded by a trio of guy friends who use the mission of getting Andy deflowered as a way of deflecting attention from their own misguided lives.
There's David (Paul Rudd), who is mired in romantic turmoil over his girlfriend's infidelity and their eventually breakup -- which happened two years ago. Jay (Romany Malco) is certainly a smooth operator, but he's a serial cheater who spends most of his free time trying to hide his infidelities from his longtime girlfriend, who he clearly fears. And then there's Cal (Seth Rogen), whose “edgy” lifestyle of tattoos and growing his own pot is really just a cooler variation of Andy's toy collecting. The gag is that all of these guys don't have a clue, but at least they've had sex, which contemporary male culture (especially as envisioned in raunchy comedies) sees as the ultimate common denominator.
Apatow and Carell have fun placing Andy in a variety of “target-rich environments,” as Maverick in Top Gun put it, and seeing how each of them is more of a trap than a playground. At one point, Andy finds himself at a bar with a group of drunk floozies, one of whom almost kills them both on the drive home, and later he is stuck at an organized “Date-a-Palooza,” which promises 20 disastrous dates in under an hour. Like most sex comedies, The 40-Year-Old Virgin trades largely in male sexual humiliation, constantly bringing Andy to the brink of paradise and then springing the hidden trap. After a while, you begin to understand why Andy, as he puts it, simply stopped trying at some point.
All the while, though, Andy remains fixated on Trish (Catherine Keener), a woman who works across the street from him. The movie shifts gears into full-out squishy romantic-comedy mode when he and Trish start dating, albeit with the agreement that they won't have sex until they've been out 20 times. This establishes a deadline that Andy can simultaneously anticipate and dread, and it also puts pressure on him to fess up to her that he's never done it before. There's a genuine sweetness to Andy and Trish's relationship, and even though the plot mechanics start becoming more and more obvious by the end, it succeeds in adding an air of adult pathos to all the raunch. Some of the humor strains too hard to get big belly laughs -- Are we really supposed to believe that, just because Andy is a virgin, he has literally no idea how a condom works? And why is it necessarily funny when a pair of older men with Indian accents curse a lot? But, overall, The 40-Year-Old Virgin finds a good balance between multiplex-pleasing body humor and multiplex-pleasing sincerity.
Copyright ©2005 James Kendrick
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