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40 Year Old Virgin, The (HD DVD)

Universal // Unrated // May 22, 2007 // Region 0
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted June 2, 2007 | E-mail the Author
Oh, there's something kinda-sorta ironic about the fact that my hundredth HD DVD review since the format's launch last year would be for The 40 Year Old Virgin.

The 40 Year Old Virgin sounds like a one joke flick. Y'know, cast some unfuckable loser, scribble down a few scenes with him trying to get laid and failing miserably, throw in a wacky, horny best friend or two, shoehorn in a corny third act romance with some sweet twentysomething vixen...the movie writes itself. We're not talking about Tomcats or some direct-to-video American Pie sequel, though...comedies that may be rated R or have a "too hot for theaters!" sticker plastered on the cover but are really aimed towards barely-pubescent teenagers. Sure, The 40 Year Old Virgin is fat-packed with dick jokes, tits, and hysterically graphic stories about sex. The difference is that it's coming from actual characters with fully fleshed-out personalities, and the movie's take on relationships is surprisingly mature and thoughtful. The 40 Year Old Virgin deftly juggles vulgarity, sweetness, and a razor-sharp wit, and I can sincerely say that it's one of the most unrelentingly funny, skillfully crafted comedies I've ever seen.

The Office's Steve Carell stars as Andy Stitzer, who's kind of in a state of arrested development; he rides his bike home from a job as a stock supervisor at the big box electronics store down the road to an apartment overflowing with longboxes of comics and hundreds of mint-in-box action figures. The living room's cluttered with cardboard stand-ups and busts of classic Universal monsters, and it looks like he raided a dental office to snag the array of magnifying glasses he uses to meticulously paint vintage war figurines. He doesn't play his Xbox with a controller; Andy flings himself around in a video game chair with joysticks on the armrests for deathmatches splattered across a 50" plasma. Above his electronic drum kit is a colossal and lovingly framed poster for Asia, his favorite twenty five year old prog-rock supergroup. Andy, at 40 years and 10 months, is a virgin.

When a few of his co-workers at Smart Tech are a man short for a poker game, they grudgingly invite Andy along. As his three not-really-friends start delving into their most repulsive sexual encounters in graphic detail, Andy awkwardly tries to keep up, but when he starts talking about boobs feeling like bags of sand, David (Paul Rudd), Cal (Seth Rogen), and Jay (Romany Malco) get it. Andy's a virgin, and after ribbing him about it for a while, they make it their mission in life to get him laid. His sexual mentors continually contradict each other, and his first few trips out are devastatingly humiliating, but their advice eventually looks like it's doing the trick. Without actually saying anything, Andy manages to win over a flirty book store clerk (Elizabeth Banks), but he's really drawn to Trish (Catherine Keener), a sweet and charming woman his own age. Trish is lugging around her own set of baggage, though, and sex isn't the only thing she's pushing Andy to do that he isn't quite ready to handle yet. His pals try to push Andy towards the foxier, younger Beth, for practice, if nothing else, and...yeah, that's the plot.

A shitty sex comedy would be about trying to get Andy laid, and that'd be it. The 40 Year Old Virgin is more interested in what's keeping him from having sex. The movie's really quite respectful of Andy, ribbing him a good bit but not actually looking down on him. Speaking from experience, it's the single most accurate representation of a nerd I've ever seen on-screen. There's one quick montage showing how dorky and how much of a shut-in Andy is -- sitting in bed reading comic books, marching around his living room with a French horn, talking to himself while painting a miniature figurine -- and all I could think was "Check. Check. Check. Check." Andy doesn't repulse women, exactly; he's just terrified of them...or really, of being rejected or embarrassing himself. Hermetically seal yourself in your apartment and avoid all contact with anyone who doesn't have a Y chromosome, and there's no chance of being let down. Judd Apatow jokes a couple of times in the extras on this disc that he was really able to relate to the concept, and only someone who's a geek at heart would be able to get the sensibility so unerringly right.

Like Apatow's Freaks and Geeks, the movie respects its characters regardless of how flawed they may be, and he's assembled another tremendous cast. Steve Carell may only have had a couple of movies under his belt and had never tackled a lead role in a film before, but his somewhat complex performance here is so note-for-note perfect that it's not hard to see why Universal would bank on him to head up Evan Almighty, the most expensive comedy in the history of cinema. At the movie's outset, Andy hadn't really ever spoken with any of his co-workers for more than a few seconds at a time, but the friendship they spark seems genuine; they're not just hanging out with each other because that's what the script says they have to do. Catherine Keener is also exceptionally charming as Trish, and it's a testament to her warmth, talent, and beauty that in a movie teeming with gorgeous, busty young women, a modestly endowed actress who's pushing fifty would be so much more appealing than any of them.

I've read a lot of grousing on forums like DVD Talk about how the theatrical release of The 40 Year Old Virgin is nimbler and more tightly edited, trumping the unrated version that Universal has again pulled off their shelf for this HD DVD. I have to admit to only having seen the longer, unrated cut, but even though it may clock in only twenty minutes less than a sprawling epic like Apocalypse Now, its two hour and change runtime feels closer to half that. The pacing never drags, and none of the scenes ever meander or feel like they were stapled on as an afterthought.

I can't think of the last time I watched a comedy and laughed this hard, this often. Well, minus the last time I watched The 40 Year Old Virgin, I mean. Whenever I read a review where the writer claims to have laughed so hard that he was out of breath and in tears, I can't help but roll my eyes, but I'm being completely sincere when I say that here, and I was in hysterics every bit as much the second time through as when I first gave the DVD a spin last year. The 40 Year Old Virgin is the best comedy I've seen in ages, and I'm sorely tempted to say that it might be my favorite of all time.

Video: The 40 Year Old Virgin doesn't really look like a flick just a couple of years out of theaters. There are some eye-popping moments in this 1.78:1 high-def presentation, but for long stretches of the movie, crispness and fine detail fall somewhere above DVD but short of what I've come to expect on HD DVD. In fairness, some of that could be owed to the way The 40 Year Old Virgin was shot. The photography has a quick-'n-dirty look to it, occasionally exhibiting a good bit of film grain and lackluster contrast. The image often has an artificially sharpened appearance, and some of the earliest shots of the movie sport the heaviest edge enhancement I've seen in the 130 or so HD DVDs in my collection. Hmmm. Kinda appropriate that I'm bitching about something as geeky as video quality and halfway bragging about owning more HD DVDs than I have time to watch in an Internet-based review of a movie with "Virgin" in the title. Anyway, this HD DVD of The 40 Year Old Virgin is a definite step up from the initial unrated DVD release, but it's not a knockout the way so many of Universal's HD DVDs have been.

Audio: A dialogue-driven flick like The 40 Year Old Virgin sets itself up for a standard issue comedy mix. Y'know, dialogue and assorted sound effects scattered across the front speakers, ambient sounds and the score reinforced in the surround channels, and the subwoofer kicking in for some of the songs and punchier sound effects. The 40 Year Old Virgin does a decent enough job at all of that. Straightforward but fine. There's also a 5.1 dub in French along with subtitles in English and French.

Extras: "DVD is where you can put all of your rambling bullshit."
- Writer/director Judd Apatow

This disc piles on all of the bells and whistles from the original DVD as well as the "Double Your Pleasure" re-release, and Universal's even tacked on some HD DVD-exclusive U-Control interactivity for good measure. To put it in perspective...? Watching the movie and then delving into each and every one of the extras on this disc would take right at ten hours. The downside is that all of the extras are in standard definition, and not a single one of 'em is even in anamorphic widescreen.

First up is an audio commentary that crams Judd Apatow, Seth Rogen, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Romany Malco, Gerry Bednob, Jane Lynch, Leslie Mann, Shelley Malil, and Jonah Hill into the recording booth. As chaotic as that sounds, it's actually a very coherent discussion, and the ten of 'em somehow manage to avoid tripping over each other. Having that many people around -- with quite a few of them having an extensive background in improv -- also means that there really isn't any dead air, and it's almost as funny and self-effacing as the movie itself. Some of the highlights include Seth Rogen plastering his apartment with Post-It notes that read "woman fucking a horse", Apatow getting a note from his 7 year old daughter that her mommy's character should fall asleep while driving drunk, Malco explaining how the Bible recommends picking up women, the cast guessing which famous actor was responsible for Andy's question mark-only approach to hitting on Beth, Carell almost getting run over by a 'bogey', and the genuine shock from the crew and even some of the actors that not only did the movie wind up being funny but that it wound up being a movie at all. Definitely worth setting aside a couple of hours to give a listen.

Even after restoring fifteen minutes and change of footage for this unrated cut of the movie, there was still a metric ton of snipped celluloid scattered around the cutting room floor. Eighteen minutes of deleted scenes from the initial DVD release are packed on here along with another twenty minutes from the re-release, including Andy's co-workers chatting about losing their virginity (or, um, virginities; maybe it's like "deer" or "fish" and doesn't get pluralized like that), a karaoke rendition of a number from Zorba, a longer porn star fantasy with full-frontal nudity, Andy fantasizing about a news anchor who rips off her top and threatens to leap through his TV, another not-really-a-conversation with Elizabeth Banks' flirty book store clerk, trying to read a "Wario World" strategy guide as his elderly upstairs neighbors screw, more cameos from The Office, including Phyllis Smith and the always lovely Jenna Fischer, and lots and lots of improv. Hafta admit that the best stuff must've made it into the unrated cut 'cause most of this extra footage doesn't really stack up by comparison.

The first eighteen minutes or so of the deleted scenes feature optional commentary by Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen riffing about a fake billboard that was supposed to be racy but didn't get a single complaint in the three months they had it up, Romany Malco losing his virginity at the tender age of six in real life, making a news crew's week while shooting one of Andy's fantasy sequences, and Seth Rogen blaming a Paul McCartney-sponsored land mine fundraiser for giving him an erection every time he smells tea tree oil. The commentary's better than the actual footage, as strange as that might sound.

38 minutes of deleted scenes may look like a lot on paper, but that's just the start of what was snipped out of the movie. The first spin through Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen riffing while button-mashing their way through some Mortal Kombat sequel is on here too. The five and a half minute "You Know How I Know You're Gay?" isn't as heavy on gay jokes as it sounds, mostly letting Dave gab about embracing celibacy while Cal asks for clarification on what that means, exactly. Gloves filled with Smucker's apparently get a thumbs-up, for anyone keeping track at home. Rogen and Apatow chime in with optional commentary on this too, but it's pretty much just the two of 'em laughing.

An extended version of the "Date-a-Palooza" speed dating sequence runs around nine minutes. It's probably too long to work in the movie but gets the nod from me as the best of the deleted footage on this disc, tossing in some more characters and giving Sons and Daughters star Gillian Vigman a chance to be a whole hell of a lot more vulgar. Apatow quips in one of the extras that he'd shoot fourteen versions of every line in the movie to cover his ass in the editing room, and "Line-o-rama" is a six minute barrage of some of those improvised lines. This featurette just rattles 'em off one after another. Fast 'n funny.

Nope, not done yet. Twenty minutes of raw footage from three sequences -- the poker game, the chest waxing, and the masturbatory bubble bath -- have also been included, giving a peek at what the filming process was like with Apatow shouting out ideas while the cameras rolled. There's a gag reel that's more or less the cast cracking up for four and a half minutes straight, but, uh, a mildly disturbing version of Andy peeing with an erection and a quick nipple flash from Catherine Keener make it worth a look. Also included are seven and a half minutes of audition tapes for Jonah Hill, Elizabeth Banks, Romany Malco, Shelley Malil, Jane Lynch, Gerry Bednob, and Jazzmun, often pairing 'em with Steve Carell. The four leads pop up again in a five minute rehearsal of the poker game sequence where it dawns on them that Andy's a virgin.

The chest waxing gets its own three and a half minute featurette, showing Carell actually having the hair ripped off his chest while several cameras rolled to capture everyone's genuine reactions in real time. "My Dinner with Stormy" is a two minute bit with Seth Rogen chatting up a porn star with a fascinating tattoo, and...oh what the hell, why not throw on a scratchy, random sex ed film from the '70s?

Judd Apatow showcases his dry, self-deprecatory sense of humor in a twenty minute set of video diaries taped throughout the shoot, deadpanning about how miserable and burnt-out he is. It's understated but extremely funny -- by far the best of the not-deleted-scenes-and-not-an-audio-commentary extras -- and it even includes some additional footage from The 40 Year Old Virgin that doesn't pop up elsewhere on the disc. There are also two promotional featurettes taped for Comedy Central and Cinemax, but they're really meant to plug the movie and are too bogged down by clips from the flick to be of much interest to anyone this knee-deep in the HD DVD.

The last of the extras ported over from the DVD is a trailer for Knocked Up. C'mon, I've seen this trailer in high-def on HDNet, so there's not much of an excuse for including a standard definition, letterboxed, non-anamorphic version of it here.

Exclusive to this HD DVD is a U-Control picture-in-picture commentary with interviews and behind the scenes footage. The bulk of the material isn't directly rehashed from the many, many hours of extras elsewhere on the disc, but with most of the comments revolving around the cast, some of the locations, and Apatow's screenplay-as-a-starting-point, improv-heavy technique, there isn't that much unique information either. The 40 Year Old Virgin is another example of a Universal release where even if you expressly pick the U-Control option from the disc's menu, you still have to keep hitting the 'Enter' button on the remote every single time the picture-in-picture icon appears. It's enough of a hassle that I'd suggest just sticking with the audio commentary instead.

The 40 Year Old Virgin is one of the more slickly packaged HD DVDs out right now, sporting a Velcro-sealed slipcase that, when opened, strips off Andy's shirt to show his partially waxed man-o-lantern chest.

Conclusion: The video and audio quality of this HD DVD may be somewhat underwhelming, but The 40 Year Old Virgin gets my nod as the best comedy of the past five years. Equal parts clever, vulgar, and sweet, The 40 Year Old Virgin is sturdy enough to stand up to multiple viewings, and the hours and hours of extras ensure that fans get their twenty bucks' worth. Very, very Highly Recommended.
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