Saturday, March 19, 2011

Review: "The 40 Year-Old Virgin" is Still a Steve Carell Showcase

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 133 (of 2005) by Leroy Douresseaux

The 40 Year-Old Virgin (2005)
Running time: 116 minutes (1 hour, 56 minutes)
MPAA – R for pervasive sexual content, language, and some drug use
DIRECTOR: Judd Apatow
WRITERS: Steve Carell and Judd Apatow
PRODUCERS: Shauna Robertson, Clayton Townsend, and Judd Apatow
EDITOR: Brent White


Starring: Steve Carell, Catherine Keener, Paul Rudd, Romany Malco, Seth Rogen, Elizabeth Banks, Leslie Mann, Jane Lynch, Gerry Bednob, Shelley Malil, Kat Dennings, Erica Vittina Phillips, Cedric Yarbrough, David Koechner, Lee Weaver, Gloria Helena Jones, and Nancy Walls

Andy Stitzer (Steve Carell) has never “done the deed,” or, to put it more plainly, Andy has never had sexual intercourse. That makes the avid toy collector, video gaming enthusiast, and comic book reader a 40 year-old virgin. When his co-workers: the three randy bastards, David (Paul Rudd), Jay (Romany Malco), and Cal (Seth Rogen), accidentally discover Andy’s situation, they immediately want to help him get his cherry popped.

After a series of misadventures, Andy is once again ready to accept that he will never have sexual intercourse, but fate brings him into contact with Trish (Catherine Keener), a single mother of three children and a grandmother of one. Andy and Trish become very close and decide to have a platonic relationship until they get to know each other. However, when the time finally arrives for them to get intimate, Andy is still having reservations…

The 40 Year-Old Virgin could have been nothing more than a shameless excuse to make a tawdry film aimed at teenagers and 20-somethings – full of bad jokes about virginity, loosing one’s virginity and having awkward first-time sex. Instead the film is only half that. Sure, there is plenty of gross humor and embarrassingly frank discussions of sexuality. In fact much of the sex talk is the kind of triple-blue tales guys tell each other when they’re not in polite company because together they aren’t polite company.

Romany Malco and Seth Rogen gamely lead the charge unleashing a barrage of X-rated storytelling that tops the wretched bragging that is a stable on B.E.T.’s “ComicView,” but Malco and Rogen are 10 times funnier. In fact, this is a breakthrough performance for Malco, who deft plays Jay as both comically and as a hypocrite. Both he and Rogen should have long film careers playing “the buddy” to a big name star’s turn as a struggling romantic. However, the third member of the support trio is limply played by Paul Rudd, but it’s not entirely his fault; the script gives him a few good scenes, and then leaves both him and the audience hanging for more of the obviously complicated David.

One thing that The 40 Year-Old Virgin’s screenplay (co-written by the director Judd Apatow and Steve Carell) has going for it is its sense of realness. There is a naturalness to the individual scenes that suggests the truth of real life. What the script lacks is a cohesive sense of honesty. Some things are true; others are just plot contrivances designed to make an outsider tale seem like normal Hollywood fare. In fact, since the writers chose to gloss over the supporting characters, they made the film too long by ten minutes. They could have given those 10 minutes to Catherine Keener so her character, Trish, wouldn’t only come across as a cardboard, sympathetic mother figure and cherry popper – a waste of a powerful actress for sure.

Ultimately, the main reason to see this film is Steve Carell; the seemingly humble actor (at least he comes across that way in interviews) has quietly delivered a number of roles, stunning in how good they are for their smallness, in films such as Bruce Almighty and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. Here, he plays a 40 year-old virgin not as a pathetic figure, but a man to be pitied because he has so willingly bought into a life of loneliness. This is especially sad because he’s the proverbial quiet and shy guy who is really a good fellow, and would make a fine pal.

While The 40 Year-Old Virgin’s script is soft, the film’s actors build their roles into characters that the audience wants to like and finally do. Carell, more than anyone else in this film, builds a guy in Andy Stitzer who is so likeable that the audience accepts everything about him, including his many quirks and eccentricities. In the real world, a lot of people wouldn’t recognize or pay attention to a guy like Andy. Carell amazingly turns Andy into an ideal, a perfection of nerd, if you will; Andy is the kind of dork that you could love, root for, cheer, and go out of your way to help.

The 40 Year-Old Virgin has been compared to an earlier 2005 summer hit, Wedding Crashers, but the latter is funnier by far. However, both films make up for crassness with engaging tales of romantic entanglements. Virgin isn’t perfect, and Steve Carell’s performance is more memorable than the film, which in the end may be remembered as a star-making vehicle for him. Although that ending has got to go, the film is daring in so many ways. It’s one of the very few “mainstream” comedies that have almost as many African-American roles as the typical “urban comedy” (comedy with a lot of black characters), and an actress (Catherine Keener) who is older than the male lead (Carell) playing the love interest. That alone makes it a class act.

7 of 10

Saturday, August 20, 2005


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