“The 40-Year Old Virgin” (Judd Apatow, 2005)
Karma is real. After a promising start at the classic “The Larry Sanders Show,” producer/writer Judd Apatow bounded from failed-but-classic TV show to failed-but-classic TV show, winning acolades from Entertainment Weekly reporters and getting the big thumbs-down from networks and viewers. It looked like he would never have another hit – and then comes “The 40-Year Old Virgin,” now the #1 movie in America. Good for Apatow. He should use his new fame to make better movies.
Not to say this isn’t a good movie. As 3 million or so Americans know by now, Andy Stitzer (Steve Carrell) is a 40-year old social retard who manages the stockroom at an electronics store and whittles away nights repainting his enormous action figure collection. On a whim, his co-workers decide to bring him in on a poker game, which devolves into a bull session on sex during which they discover Andy is a virgin. The three youngish co-workers – a sex fiend (Romany Malco), a slacker (Seth Rogen), and a heartsick stud who can’t get over his last girlfriend (Paul Rudd) – take it upon themselves to teach Andy how to flirt and score with girls. While going through their gauntlet, Andy meets a cute woman his own age, Trish (Catherine Keener), who spontaneously gives him her number. The rest of the movie concerns Andy’s struggle to find love with Trish while learning his friend’s lessons the hard way.
The good things: It’s very, very funny. At a conservative estimate, 90% of the jokes hit their marks. Some of the best jokes sound like ad-libs from the talented comic cast – the store’s manager is Jane Lynch from the Christopher Guest movies, Rudd and Rogen are experienced comic actors, and Malco, who I’ve never seen before, has a hilarious motormouth charm. Also, as professional malcontent/Matt Taibbi-basher Jeremy Lott observed, the movie is very conservative. It’s clear from the outset that Stitzer won’t, and shouldn’t, find happiness from finally having sex. He turns it down from a “drunk ho,” a prostitute, and a Kathleen-Turner-in-“Body Heat” psychopath. I won’t spoil the ending, but it’s very important that Stitzer finds happiness in family and true love. Also (while not spoiling the ending), the last act is pitch-perfect – the misunderstandings between characters that can take up half-hours of other movies are packed into one short, funny section before resolution.
The bad things: Looooooooooooooong. It’s like a Special Edition DVD with all 20 minutes of deleted scenes jammed back in. Natch, most of the less vital, plot-moving scenes are funny. The drag isn’t as bad as in “Wedding Crashers,” which back-loaded all its lame scenes (Did we need 15 minutes of a despondent Owen Wilson? How about 5?). It comes in the second act, the stretch when Stitzer is getting schooled on the arts of dating and finding the girl he likes. Like I said above, the ending is pretty solid.