Thank God, or the studios, or handful of funny people, for the return of the R-rated comedy. A comedy not aimed, over-marketed and watered down for disposable spending teens who don’t need story, characters with actual funny lines spurting from their mouths to enjoy a film. The 40 Year-Old Virgin supplies more funny jokes, straight up guys’ banter and riotous sex talk than a drug store full of condoms. Seeing this film may be like a virginal experience for those who have lacked a more adult comedy.
The title does speak volumes, but like a reading a condom label many elements aren’t always so obvious. Here the comedic tale slides inside the world of electronic store stock room clerk Andy Stitzer (Steve Carell) who just hasn’t managed to “do it” in four decades. Like good sex, when the film goes up it stays it and on top of its game for long periods. The strategically placeD downs occur, but not enough to slow down this locomotive.
The engineer for this train - Andy Stitzer. Why wouldn’t women just fall for a guy who rides a bike (not a motorcycle), collects action figures and plays video games? His co-workers, aghast at the thought of him not enjoying life’s simple pleasure, take him on a well intentioned though misguided tour that runs from singles bars to speed dating encounters. Along the way, he meets a bevy of assorted women, with only Trish (Catherine Keener) as an eBay selling story owner, truly capturing his heart – as well as other vital organs.
It comes as no surprise that first time director Judd Apatow remains a fan of the R-rated films of the late seventies and eightes like Animal House and The Jerk. Those films, like Virgin, don’t end up being all that dirty but they aren’t sanitized either. They offer some loveable shmuck who, despite his flaws, succeeds to fulfill his quest. In Virgin, Apatow cleverly surrounds Andy with a talented group of escorts. Not those kind. The ones like Seinfeld. In Virgin, Jerry resides in the eye of a comedic, offbeat, flawed cyclone of friends.
The film maintains a fast and hard pace, and like any stud keeps a steady pace with jokes and witticisms at every turn. Apatow gets great performances from even his bit players. The underrated Catherine Keener punches up potentially lackluster sentimental love scenes with her great timing and reactions. Much of the appeal lies with Carell (who became known initially for his mock stoicism news correspondent reports on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart), whose innocent baby face features and his ability to create funny situations even from the most mundane situations.
The film does contain its share of dick jokes, gay remarks and racial humor but they just flow within this freaky world. Apatow and Carell, who co-wrote the script, rely more on punchy lines than sight gags. This elevates the film above the humdrum teen sex romps that rely on silly sight gags rather than creative dialogue and jokes. Definitely the funniest film this year so far, Virgin offers a lot of body parts, but upon leaving the theater you’ll realise, with a big smile on your face, that the film has lots of heart.