The 40-Year-Old Virgin directed by Judd Apatow, written by Apatow and Steve Carell, with Carell, Catherine Keener, Paul Rudd, Romany Malco and Seth Rogen. 116 minutes. A Universal Pictures release. Opens Friday (August 19). For venues and times, see Movies, page 86. Rating: NNN
Just a head's-up, folks: if you were ever planning to humiliate Steve Carell, forget it. Can't be done. The man has no shame, and apparently no fear.
Carell plays Andy Stitzer, the titular 40-year-old virgin. He's based on Carell's old stand-up routine about locker-room talk: when this guy talks about breasts, he compares them to "bags of sand," thus revealing his complete ignorance. Andy isn't a freak; he's just a nerdy guy for whom the big "it" never happened.
There's nothing inherently unbelievable about the premise. What is unbelievable is that, after he outs himself at a poker game with some workmates (Paul Rudd, Romany Malco and Vancouver-born Seth Rogen), they don't humiliate him but instead try to get him laid.
Even his boss, Paula (Jane Lynch), tries to get in on the action, offering to be a "fuck buddy." Eventually, Andy meets Trish (Catherine Keener), a woman he really likes, but his pals are still shoving him at the drunkest chick at the bar.
That all this works is a tribute to Carell's investment in the role. Unlike the Stiller/Wilson/Vaughn posse, there's no ironic wink in Carell's performance, no hint that he's smarter than the material. And Carell has Astaire-like comic timing. When Trish asks, "Do you have protection?" Andy says, "I don't like guns."
Carell's commitment is so strong that when Andy gets his chest waxed, it's actually Carell's hair being ripped out by the roots. Everyone in the room goes into ill-concealed hysterics as Andy screams obscenities (the best of which is "Fuck! Kelly Clarkson!").
That there's some bathroom humour and not a little sexism in the film I won't attempt to deny; I also won't deny that I laughed my ass off at most of it.
I pray to whatever gods there be that The Daily Show, where Carell used to be a "correspondent," puts the SNL crap factory out of business by spawning more films like this one.