The 40 Year-Old Virgin

Robin Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Robin Clifford 
The 40 Year-Old Virgin
Laura Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Laura Clifford 

Andy Stitzer (Steve Carell) collects action figures, loves playing video games, works in the stockroom of an electronics superstore, rides a bicycle (he can’t drive a car, yet) and has never had sex. But, he’s not some hormonal-imbalanced teenager, he’s “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.”

Andy has freaked out his coworkers who thought he was either a closet serial killer or just a guy with some serious mental issues. Or, gay. When they need a fifth for their regular poker game and can’t find another player, out of desperation they reluctantly invite Andy to play. When his extensive experience with online card playing makes him a winner, they relax a bit and the talk turns, of course, to sex. It becomes obvious that their newfound friend has never done the dirty deed and Dave (Paul Rudd), Jay (Romany Malco) and Cal (Seth Rogen) make it their mission to get Andy laid.

The 40-Year-Old Virgin” sounds, on the surface, like fodder for yet another silly, vulgar National Lampoon movie and, on some levels, it is. But, under the helm of long-time producer and first time director Judd Apatow, who co-wrote the script with Carell, puts a fresh, original spin on the material that is vulgar, raunchy and damn funny. It is also a sweet movie that does not play the obvious litany of fart jokes and toilet humor. It does deal with various concepts like self-aggrandizing sex, infidelity, gay bashing, pot smoking, dirty language and the “fear of flying” but always in a funny, strangely honest way.

Sure, the film’s focus is on its title character but it takes the time and effort to bring in the supporting players in such a way that make it a true ensemble comedy. Carell is a natural as the middle-aged virgin who has never gone all the way with a woman. He’s an older naïf who has consciously eschewed the pursuit of sexual gratification after being freaked out by his youthful encounters with members of the opposite sex. When his newly minted friends at the Smart Tech store learn of his affliction, Dave, Jay and Cal decide that they must end Andy’s self-imposed celibacy.

This trio forces their friend to take part in the dating ritual and become his advisors on how to pick up a girl, attend a date-a-thon, take advantage of alcohol-soaked babes at a bar and preach the benefits of watching porn at home. None of their tried-and-true methods appeals to Andy and he seems destined for a life alone. That is, until Trish (Catherine Keener), a woman who sells other people’s stuff on e-bay, walks into his store to buy a VCR. She finds the virgin (unbeknownst to her) to be funny and charming and gives Andy her phone number. She may well be “the one” but his nervousness over failure keeps Trish at arm’s length. They mutually decide that sex should not enter the picture for an agreed upon 20 dates.

Apatow and Carell work hard to make Andy’s plight (played with believable innocence by Carell) more than a one-note gag and succeed at almost every turn. It helps that they have a cast of comic characters in Dave, Jay and Cal and a solid romantic interest with Trish. Beneath these wonderfully real characters so well played by their actors are a bevy of other supporters that help give depth and dimension to “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.”

Veteran actress Leslie Mann (“Best of Show”) gets good mileage out of her character, Nicky, the manager of the Smart Tech store, who offers Andy “friendly sex” until he finds his own woman. She is earthy, funny and supportive. Gerry Bednob, as coworker Mooj, gets his share of vulgar jokes as he derides Andy and his friends for excluding him from their mating games. Elizabeth Banks is amusing as Beth, a bookstore clerk that Andy hits on but is saved by his friends before they do the two-backed mambo. Kat Dennings, as Trish’s teenage daughter Marla, comes on as shrill and jealous of her mother’s new boyfriend – actually jealous that she can’t have sex while her mom can – but warms up to Andy’s kindness, making Marla his ally. Other cast members are also equal to their supporting tasks.

The 40-Year-Old Virgin” also benefits from its bevy of solid techs, with its Smart Tech locale and Andy’s apartment that is a teen boy’s dream. Andy’s wardrobe and preferred mode of transportation are also well defined for the character. Overall production design, by Jackson De Govia, is aced.

Andy’s dating trials and tribulations are nicely delivered with such scenes as the Speed Dating lunch hour where he meets a variety of eager women, including one who has problems keeping her ample breasts covered. The bar scene is handled with laughs, especially when he picks up one drunk woman who offers to take him to her apartment for sex. The car ride is one for the books and, as absurd as it seems, smacks of nutty realism. The chest waxing scene that is so prominent in the trailer is much more extensive in the film and, alone, is worth theprice of admission. (Note that Carell insisted that the scene be played for real, making it far better than if done with special effects.)

The 40-Year-Old Virgin” is possibly the best comedy of the year and makes the predictable, but funny, “The Wedding Crashers” pale in comparison. This is not a movie that young kids should see. The R-rating is hard but deserved and may be a little too raunchy to be considered a date move for those who are sensitive to overt raunchiness. But, for those of us with thicker skin and a penchant for real adult comedy, have I got a film for you. I give it an B+

Andy Stitzer (Steve Carell, "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy," "Bewitched") lives alone in an apartment crammed with collectible action figures and rides his bicycle to work at the Smart Tech electronics store where he's viewed as slightly odd by his somewhat distanced coworkers.  A rare invite to join them in a poker game provides Andy's coworkers with both fodder for jokes and a unifying mission when they find out that Andy is "The 40 Year-Old Virgin."

"The Wedding Crashers" may have the bigger names, but "The 40 Year-Old Virgin" is the better film.  Working from one of Steve Carell's old Second City sketches, the star and "Freaks and Geeks" producer/writer Judd Apatow (making his feature directorial debut) pack their film with plenty of raunch, but never at the expense of the film's generous heart.  Andy Stitzer is a recognizable human being buttressed by a posse of cluelessly over confident lotharios.

'That boy needs to get laid,' the retired upstairs neighbor tells his wife as Andy dons his helmet, tucks in one pant leg and mounts his bike for another day at work.  But Andy thinks he's content with his life, having given up on sex after a few disastrous encounters. He's ready to quit his job once the whole store knows about his condition, but a heartfelt conversation with David (Paul Rudd, "The Shape of Things," "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy") convinces him to perhaps try anew.  The advice that's heaped upon him, though, is questionable.  Dave is a mess two years after breaking off a four month relationship with Amy (Mindy Kaling from the American "The Office").  Jay (Romany Malco, "The Chateau," SHOtimes "Weeds") cheats on his girlfriend every chance he gets and Cal (Seth Rogen, TV's "Freaks and Geeks," "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy") is a youthful horndog who thinks Andy should practice with 'hood rats' before making love to a woman he likes.  That would be Trish (Catherine Keener, "The Interpreter"), the age appropriate woman from the 'We Sell Your Stuff on eBay' store across the way, whom Andy begins to date despite his helpful friends.  Even better, Trish takes the pressure off, proposing they not have sex for three dates.  Without divulging his secret, Andy trumps her to twenty, but when the day approaches his new maturity and confidence are abandoned in panic.

One of the main reasons "The 40 Year-Old Virgin" works so well is the carefully assembled group of guys star Carell is surrounded with, a trio with more chemistry with each other than with the opposite sex.  There are no cameos of overexposed and obvious comedy stars to be found here, only genuinely funny actors acting like real guys.  Jay tells Andy he must 'tackle drunk bitches' in a bar full of babes.  The foursome hook up with a bachelorette party and Andy leaves with Nicky (Leslie Mann, "Stealing Harvard"), but his lack of a car means she must drive and this is a chick with a blood alcohol monitoring device attached to her dash (this is one scene that drags on too long, but it ends with a one-two punch). Cal advises to keep asking questions because women like to talk about themselves and Andy's seductive ambiguity hooks bookstore clerk Beth (Elizabeth Banks, "Seabiscuit," "Heights"), but she turns out to spike the kink'o'meter.  Dave donates his box of porn, but after all his mood setting for a night of self-love (candles, fresh pajamas), Andy picks a tape of "Everybody Loves Raymond."

Steve Carell, who made a big impression in a small role in 2003's "Bruce Almighty," now proves he's quite capable of carrying a film.  In both writing and playing Andy, Carell wisely makes him a well-scrubbed uber-geek, but never so weird that he becomes creepy.  His deadpan verbal delivery of meaningless soliloquies is here in a recounting of a weekend's obsession with egg salad and his physical ability is also worked,  sitting ramrod straight at his breakfast table or running like a gym class team reject.  Kudos too to his sacrificial offering of chest hair in a waxing scene that's as funny as it is real.  Rudd's introduced having a meltdown with boss Paula (Jane Lynch, "A Mighty Wind") over her inflexible choice of a Michael McDonald live DVD for store demos.  His pasty, unkempt appeal is perfect for Dave's lovelorn loser.  The best sidekicks-only scene involves Rudd and Rogen ensconced in Andy's game chairs, playing at 'know why you're gay' during violent one-on-one videogame combat.  Seth Rogen, memorable as a flaky cameraman in the dull "Ron Burgundy," has his breakout role here.  Malco is the slick and hip member of the squad who must endure Andy's attempted Black slang.  Lynch is almost a member of the guys, giving Paula square-shouldered authority and Andy pats on the back that border on sexual harassment.

It's a bit alarming to consider Catherine Keener a 'hot grandma,' as this film does, but Keener's up to the job, a sexy woman unafraid to show her laugh lines.  Keener makes Tricia a perfect mix of hopeful confidence and single mom frustration and her acceptance of Andy as just a nice guy works.  She provides much of the film's warmth.  Kat Dennings (TV's "Raising Dad") is good as her rebellious sixteen-year old who grudgingly accepts mom's boyfriend.  Miki Mia is amusing barely suppressing her own laughter in her debut as 'Waxing Lady.'

"The 40 Year Old Virgin" is one of those rare R-rated comedies that can be described as sweet. As if that weren't enough, it's capped by a brilliantly looney lip-synched rendition of "Aquarius" that begins in Andy's bed and ends as a free-spirited dance by reassembled cast members.

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