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USA 2005
Directed by
Judd Apatow
116 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Tim Lethbridge
2.5 stars

The 40 Year Old Virgin

Synopsis: Andy (Steve Carell) has long ago given up hope of losing his virginity, or falling in love. When his highly sexed workmates – David (Paul Rudd), Jay (Romany Malco) and Cal (Seth Rogen) – discover his secret, they take it upon themselves to help Andy finally experience sex (with love being a very optional extra).

In Apatow’s directorial debut (he has directed some television, including The Larry Sanders Show and the criminally underrated, Freaks and Geeks), he has taken a shamelessly formulaic and predictable plot, then used smart-assed, often smutty, dialogue and better-than-average performances from the talented cast to make a film which represents the risqué end of the contemporary romantic comedy.

The laughs are largely at Andy’s expense, initially as he fulfills every nerd-stereotype in the book, and later as he struggles to deal with unfamiliar and often bizarre situations in his attempts (manufactured by his well-meaning but misguided friends) to lose his virginity. Most of the time the comedy works. Some scenes go on too long so that the laughter abates, leaving only an uncomfortable cringe as Andy is repeatedly and agonisingly humiliated.

At 116 minutes, this is longer than your typical comedy, and it probably didn’t need to be. There are attempts to delve into the lives of the friends, particularly David and Jay, which are not fleshed out enough to be anything but an unwanted distraction from the main show.

The central love story between Andy and Trish (Catherine Keener) works only in the most superficial way. We like them both and want them to be happy, but everything flows remarkably smoothly for them – she has children… but Andy wins them over with relative ease – she has an ex-husband… who never turns up or is mentioned again. In fact, a similar problem exists throughout Andy’s journey – once he starts trying, he rapidly loses his ineptitude and eager women seem to fall into his lap (not only the perfect Trish, but an array of others). The moral seems only to be that you need to keep trying and not lose confidence – no significant change or growth is necessary or, as it turns out, desirable. It's simplistic stuff, both affirmed and parodied by the musical ending.

To the extent that The 40 Year Old Virgin is a plain old romantic comedy given a gross-out retread, it succeeds both in the laughs and, to a lesser extent, the tugging-of-heartstrings department. To the extent that it tries to comment on the relationships between sex, love, men and women in today's world, it raises some interesting questions but never bothers to answer them.




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