40-Year-Old Virgin, The (United States, 2005)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

The 40 Year Old Virgin is proof that motion picture comedies can still be funny. Sadly, the kind of consistent humor delivered by this film happens too rarely. This is the movie Wedding Crashers should have been: rude, raunchy, uproarious, yet with elements that are surprisingly sweet. Unlike Wedding Crashers, which loses its edge (and a lot of its humor) early, The 40 Year Old Virgin keeps it up for nearly two hours. Yes, it's a little long, but there are still plenty of laughs remaining in the final 30 minutes, and the movie reserves one of its best jokes for last. If you're looking for a successor to There's Something About Mary and American Pie, look no further. It has arrived. And, if I may be so bold, this is more enjoyable than either of them.

Steve Carell is one of those familiar faces - you sort-of know him, but can't quite place the name. He does a lot of supporting work, but has gained a little familiarity as a result of appearing in NBC-TV's version of The Office (he's the boss) and Will Farrell's Anchorman (he's the clueless weatherman). Here, 41-year old Carell plays up the dorkiness and turns on the geeky charm as Andy Stitzer, an inventory stocker at a Best Buy clone. Shy doesn't even begin to describe Andy - he "respects" women so much that he stays away from them. At age 40, he's a virgin, but his salesman buddies - David (Paul Rudd), Jay (Romany Malco), and Cal (Seth Rogen) - are determined to change that. Enter Trish (Catherine Keener) and Beth (Elizabeth Banks), two likely candidates. Andy likes Trish a lot, but when it comes to doing anything horizontal with her, his nerves take over. Beth, on the other hand, is young, hot, and freaky, and might be exactly what Andy needs.

Under the expert direction of Judd Apatow (who, with Carell, co-wrote the screenplay), the humor keeps coming, and there are surprisingly few misfires. On those occasions when a gag fails, it is quickly forgotten. Each member of the cast has strong comedic timing, and none of the jokes are drawn out for so long that they lose their punch. (With maybe one exception - the "I know you're gay because?" schtick.) Most of the material is about sex, with some of the funniest bits involving Andy's first encounter with a condom, his drive home with a drunk girl, his waxing treatment, and his "date" with himself. The movie is unequivocally, unabashedly R-rated, which is one reason it's so refreshing. There's no neutering to tame things down for the PG-13 crowd.

The 40 Year Old Virgin doesn't just milk laughter out of the big, comedic sequences; it also derives humor from the little things. Men will immediately sympathize with Andy's "morning problem" and (some) women will smile at Beth's alternative use of a detachable shower head (gives new meaning to the term "multi-tasker"). There's a priceless speed-dating encounter (ever experienced a moment when you can't look away?) and some unconventional dating advice ("Be like David Caruso in Jade").

As with There's Something About Mary and American Pie, The 40 Year Old Virgin wants us to like the main character even as we chuckle at his ineptitude. Andy is a decent, affable guy, and it doesn't take long before we're rooting for him to be lucky in love. The delightful Catherine Keener is perfect as Andy's GILF (Grandmothers I'd Like to Fuck) love interest. The 40 Year Old Virgin has one foot in romantic comedy territory, and because Carell and Keener click, that aspect works as well as the raunchy stuff. And it's also great to see a romance between two characters who are over the age of 30. Keener doesn't look 45, but it's rare for a woman of her maturity to get this kind of role. Kudos to Apatow and Carell for not pairing Andy with someone half his age.

I suppose it's only fair to warn potential viewers that The 40 Year Old Virgin isn't going to be for everyone. You have to like this kind of humor - stuff that starts with Animal House and gets going from there. The gags here aren't about burps and farts; they're about vomit, urine, and other bodily fluids. There's no safety net - even the most tame jokes (such as comments about Andy's action figure collection) may strike the nerves of some viewers even as they're rapping on the funny bones of others. Apatow and Carell know geekdom, and they have a lot of fun at its expense (although I was surprised that there were no Star Trek jokes). And when you think you've seen everything, the filmmakers give us an ending of amazing audacity. This is one of 2005's funniest and most endearing motion pictures.

40-Year-Old Virgin, The (United States, 2005)

Director: Judd Apatow
Cast: Steve Carell, Catherine Keener, Paul Rudd, Romany Malco, Seth Rogen, Elizabeth Banks, Leslie Mann, Jane Lynch
Screenplay: Judd Apatow & Steve Carell
Cinematography: Jack Green
Music: Lyle Workman
U.S. Distributor: Universal Pictures
Ranked #10 in Berardinelli's Top 10 of 2005
Run Time: 1:55
U.S. Release Date: 2005-08-19
MPAA Rating: "R" (Profanity, Sexual Situations, Nudity, Drugs)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1