Andy’s an amiable throwback, a Leave It To Beaver character ambling through the modern world. But he knows he’s missing something.
Mild-mannered Andy (Steve Carrell) lives a stress-free life — working at a local electronics store, living by himself with a house full of mint-condition action figures and the freedom to do whatever he wants. Sure, he’s pushing 40, but he’s doing OK.
Of course, he’s got a not-so dirty little secret — he’s still a virgin.
When several of Andy’s work buddies discover his secret, they make it their mission to hook him up. Full of repressed passion, Andy also falls for a charming single mother (Catherine Keener).
Sure, it’s a setup that would work for Porky’s Revenge — let’s get the geeky guy some action.
Yet The 40-Year-Old Virgin contains just enough twists, wit and heart to make it more than just a bawdy romp. It’s got gross-out comedy moments galore, but it balances them out with a truly appealing sweetness.
What makes Virgin work is that Andy really isn’t some freak show. He’s eccentric and somewhat underdeveloped, but he’s no Pee-Wee Herman or Michael Jackson. He’s just a regular guy who, as he puts it, “stopped trying.”
Virgin is director Judd Apatow’s first feature. Apatow made a cult name for himself with the superb and therefore quickly canceled TV series Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared. Virgin shows Apatow’s gift for character details — not only does Steve ride a bike instead of driving to work, he even uses hand-turn signals — and a strong eye for the emotional hook behind the easy jokes.
Crucially, Virgin never shows contempt for its characters. Too many comedies are casually cruel, and while lots of unpleasant things happen to Andy in Virgin, you never stop rooting for this optimistic, vaguely befuddled fellow. He tries everything to find a girl, even waxing his shaggy rug of chest hair in a sequence that’s one of the funniest things I’ve seen since There’s Something About Mary.
Carrell — who also co-wrote the script with Apatow — really is amazing as Andy. I’ve found him very funny on TV’s The Daily Show and The Office, and in smaller parts in movies like Anchorman, but I never really pegged him as much of a true actor. But his Andy is a fully realized character, and Carrell uses his eyes and slightly off-key looks to craft a portrait of loneliness and eager hopes.
Another plus for Virgin is a superb supporting cast. As Carrell’s buddies, Paul Rudd, Romany Malco and Seth Rogen are a great debauched “Three Musketeers,” working overtime to get their friend some lovin’ in a variety of entertaining ways, even though each has their own deep romantic flaws. Keener, immensely likable and sexy in a down-to-earth way, is a perfect match as Andy’s long-awaited true love.
The new DVD release is loaded with extras, including several funny deleted scenes and behind-the-scenes shorts (including an amusing look at a painful chest waxing scene). I’d go for the original “R” rated theatrical cut over the unrated version, myself. The unrated adds 17 minutes or so of assorted raunch and boob shots, but really doesn’t improve the movie much. The leaner theatrical cut is the better film.
Virgin often feels like a throwback to horny-teenager ’80s comedies, right down to the retro soundtrack (which features the best use of a Lionel Richie song I’ve ever heard). There’s erection jokes, vomit jokes and more than enough to get your guilty laughs in.
But here’s the real secret of The 40-Year-Old Virgin: It’s a raunchy comedy that actually turns into a fetching, sweet love story. Imagine that.