The 40-Year-Old Virgin Movie Review
In a welcome change from puerile and stinking-rotten Rob Schneider and David Spade movies, "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" is a ribald comedy that is genuinely laugh-out-loud funny, despite being custom-built around a scene-stealing second-banana who really belongs in small roles.
Deadpan "Daily Show" correspondent Steve Carell, who briefly but memorably upstaged Will Ferrell in "Anchorman" and Jim Carrey in "Bruce Almighty," stars as Andy Stitzer, a king-dork electronics store clerk rapidly approaching middle age and so bereft of social skills that he's never managed to get much past first base with a woman. When his co-workers realize this, watching him fumble to fit in while swapping sex stories during an after-hours poker game, they make it their mission to get the poor guy laid.
Co-written by Carell and director Judd Aptow (creator of TV's "Undeclared" and "Freaks and Geeks"), the plot is perfectly pitched to its star's talent for playing hapless, hopeless twits. Put Carell in a polo shirt, a pair of khakis and a K-Mart windbreaker, and he can garner hardy chuckles with little more than a perplexed stare from his deep-set buggy eyes. He dives headlong into this character, earning cheek-hurting laughs with painfully awkward moments (his pals convince him to get his chest waxed) and giving Andy such an authentic geekdom (his apartment is lined with collectable toys in their original packaging) that the movie's plot hardly feels like a gimmick at all.
Unfortunately, that's exactly what it proves to be. While Paul Rudd, Romany Malco and Seth Rogan (a scene-stealer good enough to rival Carell for his crown) each get hilarious characters to play as Andy's buddies -- all genuinely well-meaning but never above making him the butt of a joke -- the movie is at its dullest when Andy actually gets a girlfriend. Well, save the scene in which he desperately tries to figure out how to put on a condom.
The sloppy, underwritten romance with a single mom (whose inexplicable attraction to Andy is never explained in any way) is believable only because Catherine Keener ("Being John Malkovich," "Lovely and Amazing") is such a talented actress that she fleshes out her one-dimensional role through the sheer power of her screen presence.
But since the clever, off-kilter, off-color, and surprisingly character-driven guffaws just keep coming and coming -- and often from unexpected places -- the movie is still side-splitting in spite of its fundamental flaws. Aptow also has a gift for creating amusing incidentals that enhance almost every scene. Andy's pals tend to give him advice while smashing florescent light bulbs, just for fun, on the store's loading dock, or while being distracted from their train of thought by the gory scenes in "Dawn of the Dead" as it plays on the store's big-screen TVs.
"The 40-Year-Old Virgin" has many weaknesses, besides the failings of the central romance, which it overcomes by being consistently funny. Some are minor, like the fact that several beautiful women throw themselves at Andy (and he blows it with each of them) for no reason other than this is a Hollywood movie aimed at an audience that likes beautiful women. Others are more significant, like Aptow's absolute refusal to move on from any scene until he's exhausted every single joke he and Carell can conjure from the circumstances, resulting in a self-indulgent 116-minute run-time that makes the movie drag in places.
But in a market full of asinine, unoriginal, raunch-driven, badly-acted sex comedies (the "American Pie" movies, "Deuce Bigalow" and its sequel, "Old School," etc.), it's easy to shrug off the shortcomings of a bawdy flick that goes for the crafty, creative lowbrow laugh and scores almost every time.