When in pain, Judge Brett Cullum often invokes the name of Kelly Clarkson.
Our reviews of The 40-Year-Old Virgin (Blu-Ray) (published September 30th, 2008), The 40-Year-Old Virgin (HD DVD) (published October 11th, 2007), and The 40 Year-Old Virgin: Double Your Pleasure Edition (published May 30th, 2007) are also available.
Andy Stitzer: You know how when you grab a woman's breast…it feels
like…a bag of sand.
The biggest shock about The 40-Year-Old Virgin is it has real love for its titular character. Andy Stitzer might be a virgin, and he might be a little nerdy, but he's got charm you can't deny. I was expecting a one-joke movie about a guy who just had to lose it, but instead I got a movie where he kept something more important. Throughout the entire movie, Andy gets to keep his integrity, and that's a hard thing to do in a gross-out comedy like this. The 40-Year-Old Virgin has more heart than I ever expected, but just as many juvenile toilet humor jokes as I anticipated.
Facts of the Case
Andy Stitzer (Steve Carell, The Office) is a forty-year-old man who has not had sex. He's built his life around collecting action figures, playing video games, and working as a stock manager at a store that could be your local Circuit City or Best Buy. His coworkers bond together with one mission: land a woman on Andy. They try to get him to take a drunk girl home, or find a hooker. But fortunately for Andy, fate intervenes when the owner of a "We Sell Your Stuff on eBay" store meanders in to buy a VHS machine. Turns out Trish (Catherine Keener, Capote) is a hot grandmother who takes a shine to our hero. Can Andy manage to date her and not reveal his biggest secret? And will Trish actually want to stick around once she finds out about his inexperience? Will we have to suffer through a sequel called The Forty-Five-Year-Old Virgin?
Steve Carell does an amazing job as Andy Stitzer, because he walks a fine line between being a character we can laugh at and still care about. You end up rooting for Andy to not only lose his virginity, but lose it in the right way. In the meantime it's hysterical to see him flail through every stupid situation his friends put him in. Yet when Carell has to get real with Catherine Keener, it rings true and sweet. Keener pours some depth in to the movie with her acting chops, and Carell has to rise to the occasion. He admits it was a daunting task to act opposite her, but his discomfort perfectly sets up his character's situation. Carell probably needn't have worried, since he developed this part back when he was starting out as a younger comic in the famous Second City troupe. He knows his character inside and out, just as Keener has an intuitive understanding of hers. They are a perfect match.
There was a script for this movie at some point, but it probably got thrown out the window once they realized everybody was going to improvise almost everything. Seriously, these guys just let people roll and let the laughs fall where they may. On the cast commentary, the director, Judd Apatow (Freaks and Geeks), remarks that the crew was amazed they made any movie out of all the raw footage, let alone a pretty good one. The improvisations give the movie a strange authenticity with respect to what it's like to hang out with guys. Paul Rudd (200 Cigarettes), Romany Malco (Death and Texas), and Seth Rogen (Donnie Darko) all quickly capture a unique energy and camaraderie with each other as the employees of the fictional "Smart Tech." The rest of the cast each has moments where they shine as well, thanks to the improvised techniques that allow each comic actor and actress a chance to show us what they've got. Racial jokes, gay punch lines, and all the typical sex jokes get bandied around, but they never seem old hat. Somehow Apatow keeps everyone in a place where it seems warm and inviting rather than insulting, because he recognizes when to make the joke on his cast rather than taking an easy way out. The movie is a study on how to do comedy gently and correctly, but still use offensive material. It's masterful in that way.
If you're a fan of the movie, the real reason to get this edition of the DVD is the embarrassing mass of extras found on it. You get outtakes, alternate lines, a group commentary, gag reels, entire sequences that were not used, live footage from the set, and even a couple of surprises that are better left undescribed. The commentary is as funny as the movie, and you'd do well not to skip it. Same with the endless outtakes. This is a movie that knows how to milk those extra features well.
The transfer is amazingly clear, and colors are saturated to a point that sometimes it looks almost surreal. That's actually a good way to deliver comedy, because it makes things appear brighter and more uplifting. Yes, even the visual presentation is part of the comedy. Sometimes this clarity goes a little too far and you'll notice edge halos, but they are minor. The center channel is dominant in the surround track, with mainly atmospheric sounds extending the sound field to the four corner speakers. The LFE channel is not used. Dialogue is clear, although the soundtrack moments could have used a little more punch.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Sometimes too much of a good thing is a bad thing. I saw The 40-Year-Old Virgin in theatres, and it felt it ran a little long. Now they have this unrated version, and it's seventeen minutes longer than the general release print. Jokes seem to go on far too long for their own good. This story didn't need fleshing out. The Academy Award-winning Crash (2004) from the same release year is ten minutes shorter than this movie. This is like the Gandhi of gross-out comedies. You could make a miniseries out of it. I almost wish they could have used a branching feature to allow you to chose either the original or extended version.
Surprisingly, The 40-Year-Old Virgin makes for great date viewing. It has a certain raucous quality that will appeal to any guy's inner thirteen-year-old, but alternates its toilet humor with real emotion, thanks to a sweet relationship that develops well. It may be responsible for creating an entirely new genre—the romantic gross-out comedy.
Guilty of having a heart and a brain, The 40-Year-Old Virgin has some moves you'll never see coming.
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