Sunday, September 04, 2005

Movie: The 40-Year-Old Virgin

The events that lead up to this review actually start way back when Anchorman was first released. As a rule, I can't stand Will Ferrell. I can't remember a single thing he's done that was funny, although to be fair, I haven't seen the infamous "More Cowbell" sketch. What I saw of him from SNL, Old School, the horrendous Zoolander (sorry, Ben), and the MTV Movie Awards...well, it didn't inspire me with confidence. But then it got really good reviews from sources I trusted, and eventually I watched it on DVD. And laughed myself silly. Ferrell was actually funny, the script was loose in parts but still packed with jokes, and the other actors were fantastic. The standout, of course, was Steve Carell as Brick Tamlin, the mentally retarded weather reporter. He nailed the character: his physical humour was top-notch, and every joke rang true because of his great comic timing. (My favourite Brick moment, for the record, is "I stabbed a guy in the heart!") The jokes never went too far into 'gaggy' territory, though, thanks to the power of his delivery. He was in the moment every second he was on screen, and it made him the standout actor in the movie.

His performance in The 40-Year-Old Virgin is even better. Carell plays Andy Stitzer, the titular character, who works at an electronics store, has few - if any - friends, and a collection of geeky paraphernalia that anyone in the EGS would gladly give a finger or two for. After his three co-workers (Seth Rogen, Romany Malco, and Paul Rudd) discover that he's a virgin, they give him advice on women, how to score, and relationships. (This would be fine, except that these three men are not exactly doing very well in the relationship front themselves...) Meanwhile, despite his new friends' best efforts, Andy begins a relationship with Trish (Catherine Keener, whom I adore), a woman who runs the "We Sell Your Stuff On EBay" store across the street from Andy's work. The two of them hit it off, and decide to wait twenty dates before having sex. Will the boys get Andy laid before then? Will his inexperience lead to an unsatisfied Trish? Will Paul Rudd continue to do offbeat comedies that get him mainstream recognition as well as indy films that get him critical acclaim? The answers to all those questions, save one, are answered by the end of the movie.

First of all, all the principal actors are top-notch. First of all, Catherine Keener takes the second-hardest role in the movie and knocks it out of the park; she's lovable, she's tender, she's bitchy, she's gorgeous, she's fantastic. I have not seen a movie with her in it without falling over myself in praise of her performance. People, if you haven't seen Living in Oblivion or Being John Malkovitch, do it. (Hell, she was even good in 8mm...) Rudd, Rogen, and Malco take their roles seriously, and do exceptionally well with them. But the movie's shining star is Carell, who makes you actually care about the main character, not just "oh, I hope he does okay" kind of fake-care that you get in most movies. He's charming, sweet, and the best thing is, he doesn't take the fact that he's a virgin as a bad thing: it's the butt of a few jokes, sure, but it's not shameful because he doesn't think to be ashamed of it.

Carell co-wrote the screenplay with director Judd Apatow (of the cult television shows Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared), and it's a good one. The conversations the men have are real conversations, not ones women want guys to have, and not ones some less comfortable guys would like to admit having. What's more, the situations the characters get into are real, not the low-calorie versions most movies give their audiences. The 40-Year-Old Virgin is a film with many levels: gross-out humour (but very little, I might add), romantic comedy, buddy movie, physical comedy, and a musical number (!!!). This could have been a flat, uninteresting, one-joke movie, and it's to both men's credit that it's so much more.

The 40-Year-Old Virgin is an excellent movie, possibly my favourite of the year so far. It's a good date movie - if the lady half of the date can handle some decidedly "male" moments - but it's a better guy movie. It's the guy version of a chick flick; I would categorize it as a "dick flick", if you can say that without immediately thinking of John Holmes. Leave the girls to their A Lot Like Loves and their The Perfect Mans: I'll take The 40-Year-Old Virgin, some popcorn, and a beer - if I can have the beer beforehand.

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