The 40-Year-Old Virgin
directed by Judd Apatow
(Universal, 2005)

From the opening minute of director Judd Apatow's strong theatrical debut, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, the title character's sexual frustration is blindingly and, quite frankly, uncomfortably clear. It's the initial appearance of Andy Spitzer (Steve Carell), who promptly wakes up at 7 a.m. and walks nonchalantly to the bathroom with an erection poking the front of his boxers. Then, to ensure he actually pees into the bowl, he must bend his back lower, lower and even lower still, until his upper body is nearly perpendicular with his upright legs. His is visibly aggravated and smug, and with reason.

From there, Andy goes about his morning routine of light exercise, followed by a quiet breakfast of a homemade omelet and fruit. As he climbs aboard his trusty bicycle and heads to work at a store not unlike Circuit City, his senior neighbor turns to his wife and says the very line that nearly every viewer is thinking at the moment: "That man needs to get laid." She laughingly responds, "Tell me something I don't know."

As Apatow cleverly establishes, Andy is very much a loser. At the same time, though, Andy succeeds at being a likable loser throughout the course of the film. Though he has no social life to speak of and knows nothing about pleasing anybody of the opposite sex -- heck, co-worker Cal (Seth Rogen) claims he must be a serial killer -- Andy's still likable.

It must be his innocence, but also a previously untapped willingness to act his age once his co-workers Jay (Romany Malco) and David (Paul Rudd) finally give him a chance to be "one of the guys." Andy then becomes a sort of sponge, so to speak, as he slowly begins soaking up what it is that makes men, well, men -- nightclub life, flirting with girls, dating and ultimately sex -- if he's lucky. It's as if he's a child learning something new for the first time -- and let's face it, he is.

What separates Virgin from most mainstream comedies, though, is Apatow's rejection of the traditional sex comedy that seems to proliferate the industry these days -- the American Pie series and Old School come to mind. Albeit funny in parts, these comedies often lack elements that are essentially necessary to make any movie, and not just comedy, great: character development, drama and heart, all of which Apatow works in masterfully during the film's 116-minute runtime.

Beyond its one-liners and off-beat gags, which I promise will lead to repeat viewings, Virgin feels like a romantic comedy, even if its language and male-centric character focus tries to convince the viewer otherwise. Of course, when most men hear the r-word -- "romance" -- they'll head for the exits. But Apatow mixes it with clean (and also crude) humor, so anyone interested in either genre will find something they like.

The story is simple enough. During Andy's "guy training," he runs into Trish (Catherine Keener). And for the rest of the movie, Andy tries to muster the courage to win her heart. At the same time, though, he must find the best way to actually work in the fact that even at 40, he's still a virgin. Trish, on the other hand, has already been through a failed marriage and has two kids of her own -- one of which is just as sex-starved as Trish herself. Hilarity ensues.

Though few and far between, the film does have its faults. Albeit very funny, the now-infamous chest-waxing scene is one instance where Apatow sidesteps reality and casts Andy in an unbelievable light. As one would expect, chest-waxing hurts, which leads Andy down a path of extreme vulgarity and outrage that just isn't, well, Andy. It feels like Carell is stepping out of character completely and playing himself instead.

Another would be an entire character, really. Although rarely seen, co-worker Mooj (Gerry Bednob) is in the film only to prove to both Andy and the audience that older people are as much into sex as people of any age. He's wildly unnecessary and goes into one too many vulgar, sex-charged outbursts. His rants make the film appear more sophomoric than it ever should -- exactly what I assumed Apatow was trying to avoid.

In the end, though, Virgin is a mature and oftentimes gut-busting comedy, while at the same time, a tremendous analysis of what we all really want: love, when we're ready. And at 40, Andy proves you can never be too old to start.

review by
Eric Hughes

30 June 2007

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