Itís hard to make a case for sexually obsessed males as disenfranchised Americans. Rather it would seem that horny men are running pretty much every facet of our culture. Yet in the titillation epicenter that is Hollywood, studios have been oddly prudish about something as simple as a good old fashioned R-rated comedy. Lord knows itís not that they make producers blush, itís the fear of turning away the 16 year old movie goer who apparently holds the film business in his sweaty palm.
And now on the heels of The Wedding Crashers comes The 40 Year Old Virgin, a sniggering concept that is used and abused in the most predictable ways, and stars 42 year old Steve Carell, an actor most 42 years olds wonít even recognize. But The 40 Year Old Virgin is going to be a big hit, and Carell is going to be a major star, because it uses its R-rating for the forces of good, not evil. Anyone who appreciates a well-turned piece of unbleeped profanity will find it refreshing.
And letís face it, making something forbidden is the easiest way to attract teenagers anyway.
Carell plays Andy Stitzer, who is not merely a 40 year old virgin, but a lifelong collector of action figures and an easily ignored employee at an electronics superstore. Andyís virginity is flushed out in the open when fellow employees, desperate for a fifth hand for a poker game, invite him in. When the banter turns to graphic details of sexual conquests, Andyís story just doesnít add up. Itís a brilliant little moment that rewards all faith in Carell as a full-fledged comic actor, and most importantly makes the character and the rest of the plot surprisingly believable. If you think attention to character doesnít make much difference in a comedy that involves projectile vomiting, mooning and erection jokes, just walk next door and catch a few minutes of Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo.
Carell, who co-wrote the film with director Judd Apatow, and co-produced it as well, has surrounded himself with people he obviously likes, including the woefully underused Paul Rudd, as well as Romany Malco and Seth Rogen making great turns as the three cocksure co-workers who set out to liberate Carell and accidentally become better men in the process. Catherine Keener, always a smart choice, is the object of Andyís affection, and whether or not Carell and Apatow felt obliged to bring love and sex together, they pull it off nicely, with nary a wince or cringe. Then just to be safe, they immediately launch into a spoof of the 60s musical Hair to take the film into the credits.
The 40 Year Old Virgin runs a bit too long. Good scenes and unnecessary scenes could easily have been cut. But even at its most juvenile, it is clearly the work of smart adults who understand just how gratuitous good comedy can be. God bless them for that.
© 2006 - Casey McCabe - Air Date: 8/05
40 Year Old Virgin, The
U.S. - 2005