(R) 3.5 StarsEd Johnson-Ott
If you saw the trailer for The 40-Year-Old Virgin, you most likely expect the R-rated comedy to be packed with raunchy humor and explicit sexual references. It is, of course, but the movie has a big surprise waiting for you: It's also a sweet story that will have you walking out of the theater feeling good. Director Judd Apatow (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy and the TV series Freaks and Geeks) and star Steve Carrell (Anchorman, Bruce Almighty, The Daily Show and the American version of the British TV series The Office) co-wrote the script, and the men were smart enough to realize that their film would be richer if they kept their characters and situations as real as possible. The result is a comedy that is funny, engaging and relatable. Nice job, boys. (L-R) Steve Carrell, Paul Rudd, Romany Malco and Seth Rogan
The 40-Year-Old Virgin is not without its faults, of course. Flat visuals and a lack of place indicate the work of a first-time director. And the 115-minute feature would have benefited from tighter editing, about 10 minutes worth, I reckon. That pretty much sums up my complaints about the movie. Oh sure, there is some homophobic humor, but any story dealing with sex and featuring a group of straight contemporary American male buddies must include wisecracks about homosexuality to be realistic. Thankfully, the jokes here are relatively gentle, with two friends playfully exchanging "I know you're gay because ... " insults.
Steve Carrell plays Andy, the 40-year-old virgin in question. The character is based on a bit Carrell came up with while a member of the Second City improvisational comedy troupe. Andy works in the back of an electronics store. While he collects action figures and comics/sci-fi paraphernalia, he clearly is a well-balanced man. Not weird. Not terribly lonely. He's a smart, pleasant guy who, for whatever reason, didn't get laid when he was younger. As the years went by without a sexual breakthrough, he grew accustomed to being a virgin.
As the film begins, getting laid is not any great concern for Andy. It only becomes an issue when his co-workers befriend him, discover the truth and make an issue of it. The co-workers are Jay (Romany Malco), who is cheating on his wife; David (Paul Rudd), who is bitter over a break-up and still fiercely in love with his ex; and Cal (Seth Rogan), a laid-back type with a great appreciation of marijuana. The three actors are wonderful, managing somehow to keep their characters likable despite some awfully unlikable behaviors.
They didn't intend to become friends with Andy. Cal, who spends the most time with Andy, has long suspected he might be a serial killer. But the need for another poker player necessitates cozying up to him. Once his virginity is revealed, the guys immediately and enthusiastically decide to help Andy find sexual fulfillment. He grudgingly goes along, enjoying the new friendships enough to put up with their interference.
Part of the guys' master plan for Andy includes a trip to a salon to have his very hairy chest and belly waxed. The painfully funny scene is real - the body hair is all Carrell's and the waxing is the real thing, performed by a young actor (Miki Mia) who once worked in a salon herself. Apatow set up four cameras and reminded the cast that the scene could only be done once, then started shooting. The results are memorable.
During the long-range attempted deflowering, Andy deals with a hot-to-trot bookstore clerk (Elizabeth Banks), a beautiful drunk (Leslie Mann) and his own erotically assertive boss (Jane Lynch). But his thoughts keep returning to a customer named Trish, played by the wonderful Catherine Keener (Being John Malkovich, Your Friends and Neighbors). Her lovely, lilting performance is a revelation - look for Keener to join the A-list as a result of her star-making turn here. Andy finds Trish utterly charming - smart guy - and his interest in her is enough to make him seriously reconsider altering his solitary lifestyle, if he can overcome his nerves and inertia.
Can Andy survive the help of his friends and find true love? The answer is obvious, but in the hands of a gifted cast and crew, getting there is a raunchy, funny and ultimately sweet delight.