THE 40 YEAR-OLD VIRGIN (2005)
Starring Steve Carell, Catherine Keener, Paul Rudd, Romany Malco, Seth Rogen, Shelley Malil, Elizabeth Banks, Leslie Mann, Jane Lynch, Gerry Bednob, Kat Dennings, Jordan Masterson, Chelsea Smith, Jonah Hill, Erica Vittina Phillips, Marika Dominczyk, Mindy Kaling, Miki Mia, Carla Gallo and Loudon Wainwright.
Screenplay by Judd Apatow and Steve Carell.
Directed by Judd Apatow.
Distributed by Universal Pictures. 116 minutes. Rated R.
This summer, with this film and The Wedding Crashers, there has been a renaissance of that most rare and illusive beast — the thoughtful and yes, even romantic — gross-out sex comedy.
Just in theory it seems like an oxymoron, but somehow comedian Steve Carell (The Daily Show, The Office, Bruce Almighty) and co-writer/director Judd Apatow (Freaks and Geeks, Undeclared, Anchorman) have been able to pull off this delicate balancing act. They are able to create realistic characters and a plausible (well, sort of plausible) romance while at the same time still having drunk chicks puking on guys, roving boobs and not one but two morning chubby jokes (which frankly, is one too many). And while the romance is more interesting than the cheap gags, you have to admit most of those work too.
The film has a unique premise, and for this alone it deserves to be lauded. Carell plays Andy Stitzer, the title character, a very nice but nerdy guy who had a some chances at sex blow up in his face, so he eventually just sort of gives up. He throws his passion into “collectibles.” He owns more toys than the world’s richest kids, most of them still in their original box (they’re worth more that way) and fetishistically displayed in his arrested-development bachelor pad. He spends his free time painting his models, creating the perfect egg salad and watching Survivor with the older couple upstairs.
Andy works in a huge LA audio-video superstore where his shyness and unwillingness to leave the safety of the storeroom to deal with customers has his co-workers (Paul Rudd, Romany Malco and Apatow regular Seth Rogen) sure there is something wrong with him. (One of them is convinced he is a serial killer.) When he agrees to be the fifth hand in a store poker game, he is quickly out of his element and can’t keep up with the sex stories his co-workers are telling. Because of this tortured naivety, the truth of his condition comes out. (In a story of a so-called sexcapade, he insists women’s breasts feel like bags of sand.) The guys determine that they are going to make it their duty to help him get laid. They take him to clubs, go speed dating, give him hints of what women like.
However, quickly it turns out that they don’t know much more than him. Cal (Rogen) talks a good game, but he is inevitably alone, preferring to plan a potential relationship than actually go out and get it. Jay (Malco) is an engaged man who can’t help straying. David is still obsessing about an ex-girlfriend who he has been broken up with for two years; a woman who has tried desperately to signal her disinterest by changing her telephone number, her email address and getting a restraining order. Andy meets his share of girls, but it isn’t until he meets a nice divorcee (Catherine Keener) that he really feels that perhaps this is the right one. She has been hurt, so she asks if they take it slow, which oddly works well for Andy who is afraid he will lose her when she learns of his lack of experience.
Carell is able to do the difficult job of making Andy a little pathetic but making sure the audience never feels sorry for him or ridicules him. The makers of The 40 Year-Old Virgin obviously like its main character, and that is contagious. (8/05)
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2005 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: September 4, 2005.