reviewed by Tom-Tom
This film couldn’t have worked without Steve Carell. Its success is more the result of the whole than of any of the pieces but the ones that really counted are Carell and Catherine Keener who departs from her darker, dramatic roles to be the eventual object of our hero’s affection. This is the first and arguably the best of Director Judd Apatow’s raunchy comedian centered franchise with a sweet and soft center. Not having established a reputation yet, the film’s material is approached as if towards an unsympathetic audience rather than one indulgent of the sadly increasingly self-indulgent films which were to follow. For these reasons, Virgin works. It was to be the springboard (for better or worse) of almost the entire cast from Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, Jane Lynch, Elizabeth Banks, and (unfortunately) Leslie Mann and her untalented children. Thankfully, each of the supporting roles are gleefully realized and real, down to earth types which, in the small doses we get of them are perfect. I’ve referred to this film as The Brothers Karamazov of Sex Comedies. This is because, just like Dostoevsky’s novel in which four brothers in the midst of a murder mystery, all extol their own philosophies on life, love, God, suffering, the individual, etc, each of the various characters in The 40 Year-Old Virgin offer their own advice about how to seduce and bed women. There’s Jay, (Romany Malco) the charming player who refers to women with such nomenclature as “bitch” and “ho” who is cheating on his girlfriend. There’s Cal, the pothead hippie with a rather eloquent style of speaking when he isn’t dropping F-bombs along with everyone else. Then there’s David, the hopeless romantic who is sore over a past girlfriend. Their advice is all different and almost all bad but familiar. We all have friends who have offered similar axioms as “Run down some drunk ho” or “Just talk to them” or “Love is horrible” but we also identify with Andy, (Carell’s character) as he tries to find his own way with Trish (Catherine Keener). Side characters offer their own philosophies such as the hilarious Mooj, whose opening argument with Jay and his advice about what life is about is guaranteed to set me to giggling each time.
There’s so much to like in this film from the plethora of hobbies and collectibles Andy has assembled over the years of being alone, to the antics involved with taking each of the pieces advice given to him by each of his new friends so earnestly. Select songs are so funny and appropriate from Lionel Richie to the 5th Dimension. The set piece featuring Andy’s attempt at having his chest and stomach hair waxed gets a laugh out of me every time. Everyone is so real and likable that each viewing is a renewed pleasure. We root for Andy’s quest but also for his development as a person and a character. He grows from a shy and rather sheltered guy into someone who, while being true to who he was in the first place, rises above what could have been just another forgettable sex comedy hero to a character who transcends the genre.