In 10 Words or Less
The touching story of a man who hasn't been touched
Loves: Steve Carrell, Judd Apatow, Seth Rogan, comedies
Likes: Paul Rudd
When it comes to comedy stars, America likes its actors to be likeable, which is exactly what Steve Carrell is. A smart-ass with a geek's exterior, he's capable of being a hero and a loser, and exuding a child-like vulnerability. As a result, he is appealing to both men and women, and an easy sell as a man who's gone 40 years without having sex, but not a complete loser.
40-year-old Andy Stitzer (Carrell) works at a big electronics store, collects action figures and has never slept with a woman. It's not that he doesn't want to or hasn't had the chance. He's just been very unsuccessful in his attempts, and the drop in self-confidence has made him less than interested in trying to break his dry spell. But when his friends at work find out his clean little secret, they are determined to get him some play.
Hijinks are obviously on the way, as Andy's horny pals try everything to get their buddy's lovelife kickstarted, but a true love story complicates matters, as Andy meets Trish (Being John Malkovich's Catherine Keener), a woman who runs a nearby "eBay" shop. Andy is attracted to her immediately, and begins a cautious relationship, one without sex, which is perfect for him. But when she falls in love with him and wants to get physical, he's not ready, leading to problems for the lovebirds.
The movie has a pretty decent storyline, but it's the no-holds-barred comedy that moves it smoothly and enjoyable from beginning to end. The naivety of Carrell's character is good for quite a few laughs, and his co-stars hit home runs, including Paul Rudd, who plays David, an obsessive guy hooked on his ex-girlfriend, and the underrated Seth Rogan's hedonistic dock worker Cal. Truthfully, there's not a member of the supporting cast that doesn't make his or her character into a memorable part of the film. Even a small part, like Gerry Bednob's angry co-worker Mooj, will stick with you.
The comedy here leans heavily toward the filthy end of the spectrum, but once you get past the sex comedy and dirty language (and be in no hurry to do so) there's actually a very sweet story about a man trying to find true love while being told that casual sex is all that matters. Telling that story with Carrell and Keener is what really makes it work, thanks to the wonderful chemistry they share and the reality they imbue their characters with.
The incredibly funny comedy at work in this movie helps the film balance the sweet, preventing it from becoming schmaltzy or inauthentic. Created with a great deal of improvisation, helped along by improv vets like Jane Lynch (A Mighty Wind), the film has a true vitality to it, and the comedic set-ups, mostly riffs on the tried and true horrors of dating (not exactly original concepts), pay off because of that energy. With another director, another star and another cast, this could have been a movie worthy of the National Lampoon label. Fortunately, it's nothing even close to a mess like that.
The 40-Year-Old Virgin is available in three different versions: unrated widescreen and full-frame editions, and an R-rated full-frame version. The unrated edition features 17 additional minutes and a pair of exclusive featurettes. For this review, DVDTalk was provided with the unrated widescreen release.
A one-disc DVD, this movie is packed in a standard keepcase. It has very straight-forward static, anamorphic widescreen menus, starting with the main menu, which offers a choice of play, scene selection, extras and languages. Language options include English Dolby Digital 5.1 and Spanish and French 2.0 tracks, with subtitles available in English, Spanish and French, while the scene-selection menus have a list of text chapter titles.
Universal really wanted to protect this movie from bootlegging, but I'm sure before it was in my hands, there were copies laying on a blanket in New York City. So once I broke the seal on my serial-numbered copy, it was no surprise that the movie itself has a watermark that affects the visual quality. Even so, the anamorphic widescreen transfer looked pretty good, with solid color. There did seem to be too much noise, which could be a result of the watermark, but the image was consistently crisp with good detail. The digital artifacts, including ringing, are also a questionable aspect of this release.
Note: If Universal provides a final release copy, this review will be updated.
Update: I received a final disc of this release, and it is indeed much cleaner, much sharper and much brighter than the test disc I reviewed. A random sampling of scenes like Andy's breakfast and his first arrival at SmartTech show an increased level of detail and a quality presentation overall. This is how the movie should be seen. (The rating has been increased from a 3.0 to a 4.0.)
Presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, the movie sounds very clean, but being a dialogue-driven comedy, it doesn't feature the most aggressive soundtrack you've ever heard. A few scenes feature surround-sound music enhancement and sound effects, but the Matrix, it's not. Despite that shortcoming, it's a good mix.
When you've got Judd Apatow, one of the men behind the universally-acclaimed DVD collection for "Freaks and Geeks," on board, you know the extras have to be good. Such is the case here, starting with a feature-length audio commentary that includes essentially the entire main cast, including Apatow, Carrell, Rogan, Rudd, Bednob, Lynch, Leslie Mann, Romany Malco, Shelley Malil and Jonah Hill. Recorded two weeks before the film opened in theaters, the track discusses the production effort, often focusing on the improvisation that went on. The participants get along pretty well, and with so many people in the room, there's never any real down time.
A slate of six deleted scenes are included, some of which could have easily made it as part of the movie, especially the rooftop scene. These can be watched with or without commentary by Apatow and Rogan. The same goes for three extended segments: "You Know How I Know You're Gay?," "Andy's Fantasies," and "Cal & Paula." "Gay" and "Cal" are both very funny improvisations, while the fantasies are some of the dirtier material cut from the film. Two more extended scenes, "Advice from Mooj" and "Date-A-Palooza" are also available, but without commentary.
"Line-O-Rama" shows how much fun this production must have been, as the many different lines tried during shooting are played back to back to back for over six minutes. There's more comedy in these edits than there is in many finished films. Sadly, less funny is the 4:30 Gag Reel, featuring mess-ups and laugh breaks, but it's still cute.
I don't know how to quite explain the short featurette "My Dinner with Stormy," which features Rogan and porn star Stormy Daniels, the star of Andy's fantasies. Sitting at a table, the duo make small-talk as Stormy flirts with Rogan, before showing him her tattoo. I don't know why it was shot, but I must say, Rogan is a lucky man.
A three and a half-minute featurette on the film's well-known waxing scene shows Carrell before, during and after the painful procedure. The waxing was really done, so in order to make sure it was captured, the scene was shot from multiple angles. This featurette shows them in a split-screen, and gives a look at how it all went down, in front of and behind the camera.
The Bottom Line
Vulgar down to the bone, but sugary sweet at the same time, The 40-Year-Old Virgin is one of the funniest and enjoyable movies to come out in a long time, thanks to the near-perfect balance of the two sides. Much of the credit goes to Apatow as the ringmaster, while the rest goes to Carrell and the rest of the actors, one of the most likeable comedic casts ever put together.
Unfortunately, due to a security watermark, I can't truly judge the quality of the presentation, but the extras are a lot of fun, and not just filling space. You should immediately go out and pick this DVD up, and if you don't finish the fantastically nonsensical ending with a smile on your face, you probably have no soul, and there's nothing that can be done for you.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or his convention blog called Conning Fellow
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.