The 40 Year Old Virgin Review
By Joe Lozito
In the late 60s and early 70s the genre "sex comedy" was defined by the sheer amount of sex going on during the film. In "Shampoo" or "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice", to take two examples, the characters were constantly in and out of the sack with either strangers or each other. Nowadays, such promiscuity is rarely met with the same kind of laughs, so sex in comedies has taken a different turn. Now, the joke is how often characters don't have sex even though it's all that's on their minds. Though numerous examples come to mind, the Farrelly Brothers' "There's Something About Mary" may be the ne plus ultra of its ilk. "The 40 Year Old Virgin", however, is the most honest about its intentions.
"Virgin's" titular hero is Andy Stitzer (Steve Carell), a hapless action figure collector who, somehow, over the course of his 40 years has gone without indulging in the pleasures of the flesh. There's nothing terribly wrong with Andy, and the film never quite explains his predicament (or why it's really a problem to begin with), but it's taken as a given that Andy needs to have sex. Andy works in an electronics store peopled with the usual supporting cast (Andy is the only character with a last name, though it's never spoken) who make you wonder how the store ever stays in business. When Andy inadvertently reveals his dark secret (he compares female breasts to "bags of sand") one night over poker with his co-workers, they make it their mission to deflower him.
Amazingly, the film runs almost two hours and the script, by Mr. Carell and director Judd Apatow, does an admirable job of capitalizing on its one-joke premise. Andy gets his chest waxed (Mr. Carell did it for real on camera), goes speed-dating, attends a planned parenthood meeting, fumbles with condoms, but never quite makes it. That is, until he meets Trish played by the ever-lovable but woefully underutilized Catherine Keener. Since Trish is the one Andy's obviously meant to be with, the film needs to contort itself in order to save him for her. Even a meeting with a prostitute doesn't work out well for Andy. Though it's never quite clear why these two are made for each other, the actors are so charming that we're willing to buy it. Mr. Carell's considerable talent for awkwardness is perfectly suited to this role and it's impossible not to smile watching Ms. Keener, who almost out-Phoebes Phoebe from "Friends".
Mr. Apatow and Mr. Carell give the Farrelly Brothers a run for their money in sheer raunchiness; "Virgin" is a hard-R thanks to almost non-stop profanity. Thankfully, however, "Virgin" is less scatological than the Farrellys tend to lean (though there is vivid example of why to stay away from drunk girls). I never thought I'd say this, but "Virgin" makes "Wedding Crashers" look high-brow. While that Vince Vaughn/Owen Wilson comedy was sappier than "Virgin", it actually played more real. Mr. Carell and Mr. Apatow traffic in random humor and though their ability to sustain it is impressive, it's at the expense of any real emotion. Which is a bit ironic. Here's a film about a man finally experiencing the most intimate of encounters, but in order to make it work in 2005, the writers had to strip it of any real feeling. "The 40 Year Old Virgin" (which could easily be the premise for a "serious" comedy) actually ends up being more compelling as a study of our culture than as a sex comedy.