Monday, August 22, 2005

REVIEW: The 40 Year-Old Virgin

I can almost garauntee you that everybody who's told you that "The 40 Year-Old Virgin" is "the funniest movie EVER!!!!" is exaggerating. I can also almost garauntee you that most of those who've told you this were previously sure that "The Wedding Crashers" was "the funniest movie EVER!!!!"

Yup, it's this week's positively-reviewed R-rated comedy, with all the attendant overhype that usually accompanies such. But don't hold that against it, as it's actually a pretty good entry. As with most such films, it's primary function is as an advertisement for it's own innevitable "UNRATED!!!!!" DVD release. Secondarily, it has the more admirable function of being the "arrival vehicle" of former Daily Show regular Steve Carell as a major comedy star. It's amazing enough that Carell is already considered a bankable lead star based completely (or nearly so) on a scene-stealing turn in "Anchorman" and having provided the only genuine laughs in "Bruce Almighty;" but it's more amazing that he's up to the challenge.

The title is also the lead character and the bulk of the premise: Carell is Andy, an honest-to-goodness 40 year-old virgin. When the "secret" of said unplanned-celibacy is revealed to his co-workers, they make it a mission to get him laid. Of course, they don't really "know" any more about women (or sex, really) than he does; so hilarity ensues. That's it.

From this foundation, the film has simply to branch out and observe it's characters in order to find the jokes. An early visual gag establishing Andy as a collector of comic books and action figures LOOKS like a cheap, annoying cliche; but there's something slightly bigger at work. The film turns the collectibles into a kind of metaphor for Andy's whole problem: The toys are all still packaged and sealed from the world, and so is he.

Fear of leaving (or recieving) an impression has caused his "situation," and the "quest" is quickly less about sexual conquest than it is about the need for companionship overall: When Andy is invited to play poker with the guys from work (they needed a 5th) it's the first actual sense either party gets of the other. Though it leads to confusion and mishaps, the adventure Andy embarks on with these new friends earns him new friends, he finds himself promoted from the stockroom to the sales floor at work (where he finds he excells) and the others find that they eventually benefit from Andy's friendship as well.

A 2nd Act complication arrives in the form of Catherine Keener, playing an attractive single mother who's genuine and immediate attraction to Andy (it's one of the film's smart points that Andy is actually a naturally nice and handsome guy who has simply gone unnoticed) provides a puzzle: Is Andy ready for a complicated, mature relationship when he has yet to even "master" a simple, immature one?

This being a sex comedy, in between all that insight and cleverness there's also a succession of mostly workable grossout humor: Vomit, "morning-wood," drunk driving, transvestites, masturbation (male and female) etc. all get their workout, and for the most part manage to be funny without overwhelming the film proper.

So yeah, indeed the funniest movie until the next funniest movie. Reccomended.



Wesley said...

I would give this a film a higher score but thats just my opion. I would like ask you about the bizzare amount of anger from the right wing about this flick. Tp explain they use words like turkey and vulgar, worth bringing up for the fact they loved Wedding Crashers
(-I'm talking about the whiny group of critics at LIBERTAS)

Bob said...

Per the "right wing" anger on this film, particularly from LIBERTAS, I can't really account.

Thing is, LIBERTAS (not a bad resource for "from the right" film criticism of the rational kind) has the same basic problem of "consistency" as most "conservative" culture-critique outfits right now... in as much as they don't have much of it.

The "down side" to the renaissance of "right wing" ideals (limited federal power, strong national defense, etc) in the popular culture has been that it's increased and laid bare the fragmentation in "conservatism." The movement is split, nearly in two, into rival factions of logical small-government politicos and hardline religious fundamentalists.. with numerous subgroupings to both, and BOTH call themselves "conservative."

So yeah, you wind up with perplexing "huh?" situations like this, where similar movies are getting divergent reviews from what's supposed to be an entire site from a certain "angle" all it's own.

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