This is one of my favorite comedies of all time. It’s full of crude humor, but underneath that is a sweet, heartfelt story that actually treats the subject matter with respect. The 40-Year-Old Virgin is still funny nearly a decade later thanks to the great performance of Steve Carell.
I was genuinely surprised the first time I watched this film. My expectations were low given the subject matter. Carell stars as Andy, a nice but socially awkward man who has never had sex. I expected the movie to portray Andy as a massive loser, the butt of the joke in every situation. Thankfully, this isn’t how he’s shown at all. In the beginning his co-workers view him as such, but it quickly becomes apparent that Andy is a great guy who is just incredibly unlucky in the love department. Steve Carell brings a charm and kindness to the character that makes him feel like a real guy and not the sad caricature that he so easily could have become.
Not only do you really feel for Andy, but you want him to succeed on his terms. His friends (played by the hilarious Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen, and Romany Malco) make it their mission to get Andy laid, despite the fact that they are all romantically challenged themselves. They want Andy to go out, have a few one-night stands, and then look for a relationship. This isn’t what Andy has in mind, especially after meeting a local businesswoman (Catherine Keener) who he really likes.
This is the real brilliance of the movie. While most films would send the lead on a single-minded quest to get some poon, Andy is very much an unwitting participant in his friends’ hijinxs. With a tiny bit of coaching from them he gains some confidence, but from there Andy does fine on his own. In fact, most of the trouble he faces is because of his friends’ well-meaning “help.” Once Andy stops taking their advice and starts being honest about who he is, things really take off with his girlfriend.
At its heart this is a movie about love, not sex. The main attraction here is seeing Andy and his love interest’s relationship blossom. Knowing that they finally seal the deal is immensely more satisfying because the two are in love. I have no doubt that the character Andy could have had sex a lot sooner if he had kept trying, but it’s nice that he didn’t cave to societal pressure.
This is the film that launched Judd Apatow into the stratosphere. Before this, he had mostly been involved in some underrated television shows (check out Freaks and Geeks if you haven’t seen it, the show is brilliant and it is a travesty that it only lasted one season), but this was his first big hit film as a director. It also launched Steve Carell to stardom, he’d only really been seen as a supporting actor in movies and as the awkward boss in a struggling American remake of a classic British show called The Office. As we all know, The Office ended up being a huge success for Carell, and some of that success could be put down to the popularity of this film and Carell’s performance.
Carell stars as Andy, a technical support person in a Best Buy type store. His co-workers (Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd and Romany Malco) think he is a weirdo, but one night, they need an extra person for poker and decide to ask Andy along. During the evening they discover that Andy is still a virgin, despite approaching the ripe old age of 40. The group decide to help Andy out of his funk and take him to the promised land at least once in his life. What follows is a calamity of events as Andy’s horny co-workers attempt (cough.. live vicariously through.. cough) to get him laid. Andy eventually starts dating a woman who he sells a DVD player to at work (Catherine Keener). This budding relationship becomes complicated when she discovers he has never ‘done the deed’ and Andy needs to do whatever he can to save his new relationship before his new flame is scared away.
Carell makes this film work. He is so innocent as Andy, but also awkward as hell. Part of the time you are thinking how can a sweet man like this be a virgin, it doesn’t make sense. Then Andy goes home and you see a house full of action figures and video games, and things become a little clearer. Steve Carell is able to make the audience care about Andy, despite being completely awkward in social situations. The supporting cast is also great. Nearly everyone has gone on to bigger things. Outside of Rudd and Seth Rogen, Jane Lynch, Elizabeth Banks, Jonah Hill, Kat Dennings and Mrs Apatow herself, Leslie Mann, also appear in this film.
The 40-Year-Old Virgin is a funny film, which also manages to remain sweet and somewhat wholesome, despite having some pretty raunchy humour. Director Apatow and Steve Carell carry this film well, but they is ably supported by a fantastic cast of up and comers.