In The 40 Year-Old Virgin, budding comedian Steve Carell plays a geeky middle-aged virgin. This is not a stretch for Carell, because in his acting career, he really is a virgin. Until his breakthrough role in this film, Carell long roamed the desolate comedic sidelines behind bigger names like Will Ferrell, Jim Carrey, and Jon Stewart. And yet, despite being relegated to small supporting roles, Carell has consistently and feverously out-shined and out-muscled his senior counterparts. Now, with Virgin, Carell proves that he's got the stamina to go the distance in his first leading role.
On the surface, I can't envision too many actors who look the part of a stereotypical 40-year-old virgin better than Carell. (He co-wrote the film with Freaks and Geeks alumn Judd Apatow.) You might even consider his role as the awkward weatherman in Anchorman as a warm-up to this part. Despite being severely handicapped by a lackluster libido, Carell's Andy Stitzer has everything that makes him happy: a great job at an electronics store called Smart Tech, an action figure and comic collection worth thousands of dollars, and a reliable bicycle that gets him to and from work every day.
But Andy's comfortable world is about to get rocked when his co-workers (played by Paul Rudd, Romany Malco, and Seth Rogen) find out he's never had sex. Even though they've barely uttered a word to Andy in the past, suddenly they become his best friends. With an overzealous determination to get him laid, they fill Andy's mind with the crudest and least helpful advice for picking up women. It should come as no surprise that none of these guys are in serious relationships. So, when they take Andy to a trendy bar or a lunchtime dating seminar, it's no wonder that he's unable to land a date. In fact, most of these experiences turn out to be utter disasters for the sympathetic Andy.
Andy actually lands his first date on his own. He meets Trish (a haggard looking Catherine Keener), the relationship-experienced owner of a small shop across the street from Smart Tech. The pair instantly hit it off -- she's just as goofy as he is eccentric. After several dates, it's clear that this relationship is destined to be unlike those initiated with Andy's co-worker's assistance. The only question that remains is how will Trish respond to Andy's little secret.
Essentially Virgin is a film with two very distinct parts. The first hour will keep you rolling in your seat laughing non-stop as the humor gets raunchier and more sophomoric by the minute. We laugh hysterically at the awkward situations Andy finds himself him in. But we're not laughing at him in a way that pokes fun at his sexual inadequacies; rather, we're laughing with him when his attempts to deal with his problem goes awry. And because we've all been in Andy's shoes at one point in our lives, it very easy to identify with Andy's plight. We love Andy, and Carell does a brilliant job at sucking us in and delivering each comedic punch to the fullest effect.
From crude humor to sweet sentimentality, Virgin's second half explores the budding romance between Andy and Trish. Carell and Keener use their great chemistry together to create a special and believable bond. Unfortunately, director Apatow doesn't allow for their union to grow undisturbed. During the film's final run (which is about 30-minutes too long), Apatow tries to infuse similar humor that succeeded immensely in Virgin's first half. Instead, we're flooded by standard racial and homophobic commentaries typical of films trying to stretch the outer limits of their material. It's almost like Apatow is unwilling to let go of the formula that worked so well in the beginning and trust his leads to work their magic in the end.
Regardless, Virgin is still a must see. It could have been the funniest and sweetest movie of the year -- too bad it's just not able to finish.
That's like, 19 dates plus 1!