Since comedy, more than any other genre, is a wholly subjective thing, I want to note straight off that a lot of people are finding Steve Carell’s starring film debut as the bee’s knees of comedy. There was a lot of laughter (not my own) at the screening I attended, and my cohort in reviewing/crime, Marci Miller, loved it, echoing the sentiment of a number of other reviewers that the film has a good heart, and that these raunchy guys are really good souls who genuinely like women, even though they spend most of their time talking about all things female in the crudest biological terms imaginable.
Personally, I found the entire movie filled with the juice of the prune (apart from the musical finale, which mostly made me want to watch Milos Forman’s Hair).
It wasn’t so much that I was offended by the humor — you don’t go to a movie with the title The 40-Year-Old Virgin expecting a Philip Barry comedy of manners. Instead, I was annoyed by it, and by its gross predictability — up to, and including, its banana-oil-filled bromide of an ending. Personally, it felt like a really, really cheap (the bulk of the movie takes place in a sub-Circuit City electronics store), less sophisticated Wedding Crashers-wannabe made by guys who’ve spent a lot of time studying the Porky’s movies.
The premise is the story. Steve Carell plays Andy, the 40-year-old virgin of the title, who inadvertently lets slip to his sex-obsessed co-workers that he’s a virgin (likening a breast to a bag of sand kind of gives him away). These fellows — who, of course, will be redeemed in the last reel — try to lead him on a journey of sexual fulfillment through a variety of predictably disastrous encounters with the opposite sex. (The drunken woman who throws up on him, but offers to still have sex with him if he wants to is a good barometer of the wit at work here.)
It doesn’t help that Andy is the ueber geek — a guy who lives in an apartment filled with movie and TV collectibles and action figures. Andy is so far gone in collecting that he has MIB (“mint in box”) collectibles from when he was 6 years old — not that anyone thought in those terms circa 1971.
People tend to assume that he’s either gay or a serial killer. (I refuse to comment on the screenplay linking the two.) He’s neither, but just someone who gave up trying to score somewhere along the way. Naturally, he’s not all that interested in this anyway, but he is very interested in the quirky Trish (Catherine Keener, The Ballad of Jack and Rose), who runs a store that sells people’s junk on eBay for them.
For all its calculated outrageousness, Virgin is such a standard movie that all of this is played out in slavish Romantic Comedy 101 plotting — from “meeting cute” to the Big Misunderstanding that will part the duo, to the last-minute reconciliation. But it’s acted more like a TV skit than a movie.
Strangely, Virgin gets near to touching on something truly relevant in the scene where Andy balks at all the changes Trish wants to make in his life, seemingly realizing just how much of himself he’s going to have to give up for this relationship. But the issue quickly becomes nothing but a device to keep him from ending up in the sack with her, and it’s dropped as soon as it serves this purpose. Too bad. For a moment, it looked like the movie might actually be about something other than making fun for 110 minutes of someone for being a virgin, only to decide it’s a great thing in the last six.
Otherwise, Virgin is just an outrageously overlong dumb sex comedy that makes Wedding Crashers look like it was written by the collective talent of the Algonquin Round Table. If Steve Carell really is — as I’m told — the Next Big Thing, I’ll soon be pining for the glory days of Adam Sandler. Rated R for pervasive sexual content, language and some drug use.
– reviewed by Ken Hanke