Judd Apatow’s sex comedy takes a while to find its legs but it hits its stride eventually, and keeps us rooting for it in the meantime thanks to its honesty and sweetness. Apatow (best known, at least to me, as the mastermind behind TV’s woefully short-lived Freaks & Geeks) wrote the script along with Steve Carell but, as funny as several of their scenes are, their movie feels overloaded with scenes that don’t add up to enough in story terms: It seems they tried to work in as much of the ad-libbed moments into their written script as they could, and, as a result, the momentum of their movie drags a bit. The overall comic energy, hence, only simmers when it ought to be at full wattage and powering a movie that should’ve been of much shorter duration. The 40-Year-Old Virgin is nearly two hours–a gratuitous running time in a genre that demands fast, concise execution. Still, there’s so much charm to Virgin, and its performers clearly are having such a blast with the material that the fun is infectious. It’s a privilege to watch a cast like this–to sense that these perfomers had as much fun with the material as we have in experiencing it. It’s a beautiful relationship that way.
Andy is living in denial. He’s shunned himself from sex, from any notion of ever having sex after an adolescence and young adulthood riddled with sexual debacles. To compensate for his sexual inadequacies, he’s filled his bachelor pad with hundreds of action-figure collectibles. And when he isn’t wiling away the hours at his “video game chair” or meticulously painting his vast collection of toy soldiers, he’s hawking electronics goods at Smart Tech–a retailer after the Best Buy/Circuit City mold. When his co-workers catch on to Andy’s virgin status, they all rally around him, ready to help him get laid. Needless to say, their tips and schemes are all disastrous in one way or another. But Andy’s a good-natured bloke and a good sport, so he keeps his chin up and takes the various embarrassments in stride.
When quirky and beautiful Trish (Catherine Keener) enters Andy’s life, things suddenly look up: The two hit it off instantly but what troubles Andy, of course, is how he’ll broach the delicate issue of his sexual inexperience with a girlfriend who’s not only divorced and a mom but, ahem, a grandma (a HOT grandma) to boot. Anyway, the story takes its time unraveling these threads. The relationships are well-developed, convincing, and wonderfully played by a Apatow’s tight ensemble (which includes Freaks & Geeks cast member Seth Rogen). Carell turns in a performance that’s at once farcical and sincere, and his Andy earns our total sympathies along the way. Carell and Apatow know are mining comic gold here: Their reflections on men’s attitude towards women, towards the wonders of the female sex organ (the “pussy-on-a-pedestal” bit scores a bulls-eye), and towards the way men relate to women all have a ring of truth about them. The 40-Year-Old Virgin may not be as whip-smart in its pacing and attitude as it could’ve been in hands less affectionate towards the material, but its proves that old adage about all good comedy: It’s funny because it’s true.
Directed by: Judd Apatow
Written by: Judd Apatow, Steve Carell
Cast: Steve Carell, Catherine Keener, Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen, Romany Malco, Elizabeth Banks