September 9th, 2005 12:30 EST
A Review of Box-Office Smash: 40 Year Old Virgin
Let me start by saying that yes, there most certainly is bawdy humor and profanity abound in box-office hit The 40 Year-Old Virgin. While it is not unusual for moviegoers to flock towards the cheap thrill of mindless entertainment, those seeking such pleasure from Virgin are in for an, ahem, gratifying surprise. The film is more than sex jokes and toilet humor. Its secret weapon "and the key to its success with critics "is its heart.
Any movie centering on the virginity of a grown man calls for the collective stretching of its audience`s imagination. However, from the film`s very beginning, it is clear that the character of Andy Stitzer, played with wonderful comic ease by Steve Carrell, is not an adult virgin because of some freakish physical deformity or a religious conviction. No, the reason Andy has abstained from sex for so long is a simple one: it just never happened. He started his sexual exploration in youth much like everyone else, which the audience gets to re-live via hilarious flashbacks. A particularly amusing scene featuring a brace-faced adolescent girlfriend gives way to the explanation that Andy`s early experiences left him, quite frankly, scared of women. Age has made him no more at ease with the opposite sex than his terrified teenage self. He is courteous and friendly, but predominantly shy and awkward. He`s practically socially inept. Andy has resigned himself to his celibate lifestyle, focusing instead on his minimal-interaction job at an electronics store. When home, he turns to his impressive collection of comics, action figures and television memorabilia for companionship. His situation comes across as lonely, if not down-right pathetic. More importantly, however, it is entirely plausible.
When his secret is discovered during an uneasy game of poker with his co-workers, Andy is horrified. Fleeing in embarrassment, his co-worker David, delightfully played by the highly-skilled and underrated Paul Rudd (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, The Shape of Things), urges him to let them help him with his situation. Andy hesitantly agrees, and it soon becomes glaringly apparent that complete lack of romance in his life is just as big a problem as the lack of sex. Under the oft-misguided coaching " of his newfound pals, Andy experiences several hilarious misadventures with the fairer sex, from which Virgin culls much of its obligatory crude humor. Despite these initial romantic train wrecks, our hero eventually gains enough confidence to begin dating Trish, played by Catherine Keener (an Oscar nominee for Being John Malkovich). Trish is a sassy entrepreneur of sorts "she owns a self-described we sell your stuff on E-bay " store "who also happens to have three kids and a grandchild. Far from being deterred, an anxious yet smitten Andy manages to take the first steps towards a relationship with her. Wanting to take things slow, an unwitting Trish makes a deal with a secretly relieved Andy to hold off on sex for the couple`s first 20 dates. Even with this advantage, it`s never quite smooth sailing for the chaste bachelor. Still, audiences can rest assured that an all-smiles, hilariously absurd resolution brings the film to a, shall we say, satisfying end.
The 40 Year-Old Virgin marks the big-screen directorial debut of Judd Apatow, previously noted for his work as a producer in both film and television. The script, which was written by both Apatow and Carrell, is bolstered not only by Apatow`s skilled eye, but by solid acting as well.
The entire cast is impressive, but none more so than its star. With humble beginnings on Comedy Central`s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Steve Carrell began making a name for himself with small roles in film and television. He achieved a breakthrough with 2004`s Anchorman: the Legend of Ron Burgundy, co-starring alongside the wildly popular Will Ferrell. His memorable turn as Brick Tamland, a weatherman so idiotic that he refers to the Mid-West as the Middle East " and professes his love for an inanimate lamp, garnered the type of career boost that most actors can only dream of.
Earlier this year, Carrell took center stage on the small screen, starring in The Office. An American remake of the wry, critically-acclaimed British series, the mockumentary "-style show sees Carrell assume the role of Michael Scott, the lazy, deluded boss of a humdrum paper supply company. Despite showcasing a drier brand of humor than American audiences are used to, the series faired well in the ratings and has been renewed by NBC for this coming season. It is The 40 Year-Old Virgin, however, that is Carrell`s career-making leap to leading man status. He handles the role of Andy Stitzer with a balanced combination of intelligence and naivety, creating a character that is both believable and sympathetic. In less capable hands, the film may have floundered. Fortunately, Carrell carries the feature on solid, side-splitting shoulders.
The 40 Year-Old Virgin is currently showing in theaters nationwide.