Steve Carell has the sort of face that one can
easily forget. He’s attractive, in an ordinary, non-threatening
sort of way. At 42, Carell is best known for his role on the American
version of the cultish British sitcom “The Office,”
and for his days as a pseudo-reporter on Jon Stewart’s
“The Daily Show.” He’s never been a big name.
Until now. This role should make him a big star, quite possibly
a household name. He’s a talented scene stealer, and here
he holds the camera’s attention with a nervous intensity that
never becomes overbearing or annoying. Rather, with his big brown
eyes and his awfully serious stares, he reminds us of Ben
Stiller, a quietly goofy nerd who’s also kind of
cute but who, most importantly, is also very, very funny.
Walking around his lonely apartment with a gigantic hard-on, the
film’s opening sequence tells us right away that this is not
a film for kids. It’s a raunchy adult comedy. And though it
pokes fun at everyone from blacks to gays to Muslims, it never feels
offensive. Perhaps it’s because no one is left out of the
onslaught, or perhaps it’s because it’s so damn funny
that we just don’t care.
Andy Stitzer (Carell) is a geek, no doubt about it. He lives in
Los Angeles but doesn’t own a car; instead, he rides a bike
with his starched brown pantlegs carefully tucked into his matching
socks. Slightly obsessive-compulsive, everything in his geeky apartment
is neatly arranged, with nary a pile of dirty clothes or unwashed
dishes in sight. He’s also a pretty fit fella, exercising
regularly at home and eating his proper portions from the food pyramid.
His apartment is cluttered (neatly) with every type of action figure
known to man—all in their original boxes, unopened, proudly
displayed as if he lived in a retro kids’ museum. Andy truly
adores his collectibles, and he’s totally tricked out with
the latest, greatest video games and control panels. Any kid would
go crazy in Andy’s place, but that’s just the problem.
He’s never outgrown his pre-pubescence, and sadly he lives
alone, with no one to share all of his cool toys. Still, he’s
not exactly moping about his single guy-dom. Andy seems content,
if only because he has no idea what he’s been missing.
Every day Andy pedals happily to his ordinary sales job at Smart
Tech, basically a rip-off of Circuit City. Cal (Rogen),
one of the guys he works with, begins to fret and wonders if Andy
might be a serial killer. After all, Andy’s weekend highlights
are usually nothing more than making gnarly egg-salad sandwiches
and watching old episodes of “Gunsmoke.”
When Andy is coaxed into joining his co-workers at a late-night
poker match one evening, he finds himself forced to reveal his darkest
secret—not that he’s a serial killer, but that he’s
a middle-aged virgin. Now the guys, including a very funny (and
slightly chubby) Paul Rudd, make it their mission
in life to get Andy laid. Surprisingly, and refreshingly, the guys
don’t berate Andy about his virginity; rather, they have real
empathy for him. They genuinely want to help him find a girlfriend.
Of course, these guys all have serious problems of their own with
women, which leads to comic havoc and loads of laughs throughout
Andy meets Trish (the delightful Catherine Keener),
and following a little coaching from the guys, he begins to lose
some of his inhibitions. She’s a middle-aged babe, conveniently
located across the street from Smart Tech in a little store where
she sells knick-knacks on eBay. The two are immediately drawn toward
one another, and sparks begin to fly. But will Trish find out that
Andy has never “gone all the way”? And if she does find
out, will it repulse her or will she be charmed by his lack of sexual
sophistication? By this point in the film, Andy’s character
has endeared us to such a degree that we find ourselves on the edge
of our seats, desperately hoping that Trish will love him for his
inexperience, rather than become frightened by it.
Director Judd Apatow, who co-wrote the hilarious
script with star Carell, really knows how to pace the film, giving
the audience just enough time to catch its breath before the next
new, unexpected plot twist arrives. Apatow has also wisely chosen
to fill his scenes with classic songs from the ’60s, ’70s
and ’80s—songs that those of us over 30 remember fondly,
and which cleverly match the film hero’s personality. The
singing finale is so memorable and smile-inducing that I found it
hard to stay in my seat—I wanted to get up and sing and dance
and act like a fool with the rest of the cast on screen.
The Forty Year Old Virgin deserves to be a huge hit.
As one of the funniest films in recent years, it doesn’t have
the brilliant pathos of a film like Sideways. What it does
have is a new star who shines impressively in an unforgettable role,
and laughs that never wane from beginning to end. That’s not
to say that Virgin doesn’t have moments where it
falls into predictable, crass potty humor; it does. What saves it
from joining the uninspired heap of Hollywood comedies (including
the recent mega-hit Wedding Crashers), is some clever writing,
screwball pacing, and a genuinely sympathetic main character who
really deserves to be cared about. At its core, Virgin
is a sweet film about love, about finding it after years of failure
and wondering, finally, if it will ever come at all. It’s
the kind of story we all fall for, the kind we’ll keep returning
to the theater or the video store to watch over and over.
—Tiffany Crouch Bartlett