The 40-Year-Old Virgin Review

Andy Stitzer (Steve Carell) works in the stock room at an electronics store. He's a quiet, nerdy guy who's polite to his workmates but keeps himself to himself. His workmates - David (Paul Rudd), Jay (Romany Malco) and Cal (Seth Rogen) - are fine with that. They all feel a little awkward around Andy. Cal suspects he might be a serial killer. That changes when an extra player is needed for a poker evening and on the spur of the moment Jay invites Andy. The others cringe but to everyone's surprise, Andy turns out to be okay. Sure he's a geek but he's a nice person and he's easy to get along with.

It's a guys' night in and there's beer on the table so inevitably the conversation turns to sex and the bragging begins. Andy chips in but his contributions sound a little vague, a little improvised. When he describes a woman's breast feeling like a bag of sand, Jay asks him, "Are you a virgin, Andy?" and his reaction answers the question. The others are stunned. How can an intelligent, reasonably good looking man reach 40 without having had sex? Andy just wants to go home, crawl under his bed and wait for the earth to swallow him but his new friends won't have it. No, they're going to help their pal pop his cherry! This involves trips to bars, nightclubs, speed-dating events and hookers and some serious coaching on how to seduce the female of the species.

Okay, before I get too deep and scare you off, let me begin by saying The 40-Year-Old Virgin is one of the funniest films of recent years. It's a laugh-fest that stands proudly in the company of Anchorman, Dodgeball and Wedding Crashers, the so-called "frat pack" comedies that have raised the bar for the genre. That much you'd have expected or at least hoped for. What might surprise you is that this laugh-fest has a heart, a big, warm, fuzzy heart, and that it's also one of the smartest films around. It has more to say about love and life and the human condition than a lot of prestigious, awards-season dramas. See what I mean about getting too deep.

Andy may be a 40-year-old virgin but, despite what the posters imply, he isn't a caricature, he's an acutely observed human being. Andy's not a virgin because he has a geek's haircut and he rides a bicycle. The poor guy's a virgin because he's scared witless by sex and everything that comes with it. And who can blame him? Sex is scary. Losing your virginity means dealing with rejection, dating, commitment, rows, break-ups, STDs, cheaters, psychos, sexual problems, sexual perversions, marriage, children - these things frighten the best of us. Maybe we don't all keep our cherries intact and stay at home with our action figures like Andy does but we get just as screwed up in other ways.

Consider Andy's friends, who are nicely fleshed out by Rudd, Malco and Rogen. Each represents a type of modern, dysfunctional male. David obsesses about his ex, Jay cheats on his girlfriend and Cal treats women purely as conquests - his advice on picking up chicks is to imitate David Caruso in Jade. For its insights into male psychology, women may appreciate this movie even more than men. The message for guys is that a lot of us are like Andy in our own ways, keeping our womenfolk at a distance and clinging to the comforting simplicity of boyhood. This is a deceptively smart film - a mainstream sex comedy with the soul of a Sundance entry. It owes more to Kevin Smith than to Porky's.

Further kudos must go to the writers and to actress Catherine Keener for the wonderful character of Trish, the businesswoman who takes a shine to Andy. You don't expect the women in sex comedies to have much depth: they're usually either amusing wackos, sluts or the love interest. That's true even of Wedding Crashers, a relatively sophisticated example. Not so here. Trish is a fully developed person in her own right. She has a life and a history and feelings and opinions. She's even given some funny material of her own, like a rant against telemarketers which is so on the money, it deserves a round of applause.

Maybe I'm giving you the idea that this is a chick flick in disguise, like What Women Want or The Tao Of Steve. It's not and if you don't believe me, the opening joke about a woman screwing a horse should alleviate your fears. The film works beautifully on its surface level as a crude sex comedy. There are belly laughs galore and scenes you'll be laughing about days later. There's the drunk chick; speed-dating; Andy's pick-up in the bookstore; the trip to the waxing salon; Andy talking black to Jay's girlfriend... I can't decide whether my favourite bit is David and Cal's soon-to-be-legendary "Do you know how I know you're gay?" routine or the visit to the sex education class. Both are explosively funny.

You'd better get used to Steve Carell, who doesn't just play Andy but also co-wrote the script with director Judd Apatow. This is going to make him a major star, a rival for Will Ferrell and Jim Carrey. He's already proved his comic talent playing dopey weatherman Brick Tamland in Anchorman but he goes further this time. Andy isn't just funny, he's credible and very endearing. It's a great performance and The 40-Year-Old Virgin is a great comedy.




out of 10
Category Film Review

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