Unassuming, toy-collecting electrical-store worker Andy (Carell) is goaded by his workmates into admitting that he’s never bumped uglies. His friends set to work rectifying this situation, but Andy only has eyes for Trish (Keener), who’s interested in love not sex.
Steve Carell, who provided some of the best improv in Anchorman and has risen admirably to the impossible task of filling Ricky Gervais’ shoes in the US version of The Office, should soon be as big a star as Will Ferrell. Director and co-writer Judd Apatow, the brilliant creator of TV series Freaks And Geeks, equally deserves all the success in the world. This first big project for both men is almost the wonderful movie such a pair should produce — yet it falls just short, strangely hamstrung by an overload of uncontrolled creativity.
Regardless, if you don’t leave The 40 Year-Old Virgin with a goofy grin playing across your face, it’s time to stock up on Lithuanian fishing documentary DVDs and book yourself a regular slot on Newsnight Review.
This has many a moment of gross-out comedy par excellence, providing all manner of yuk for your buck. A bizarre speed-dating sequence with nipples making bids for freedom and a sly chat-up in a bookshop (preceded by the finest dating advice in history) will bring tears to the eyes, while a squirming, clearly improv’d waxing session will invite multiple howls. Carell has a natural gift for making the mundane uproarious and remaining loveable throughout (it’s a measure of his charm that his insistence on keeping cherry firmly intact never seems pathetic) that elevates even the basest comedy moments… although two morning-erection jokes is pushing it.
It’s in trying to be more that Apatow sadly stumbles. At the film’s centre is a very sweet story about a man choosing to wait for a woman he loves rather than give it up for one of the nymphomaniacs shoved his way. It’s like an older, yet less mature, version of American Pie. But where that balanced sweet and unsavoury, this loses its central romance amid the bodily fluids and flatulence. Catherine Keener, always watchable, is left screaming for attention as an insistent pack of testosteroney friends continually interrupt her storyline, reducing both her romantic impact and their own hilarity.
With 15 minutes edited out, this could be a contender for best comedy of the year and a possible rom-com classic. As it stands, The 40 Year-Old Virgin is delightfully disgusting, yet faintly disappointing.
Overlong and slightly muddled, this is nevertheless an enjoyable showcase for the superb Steve Carell.