At least since Porky's, the losing-my-virginity movie has been an annual rite of schwing, as American as apple pie, not to mention American Pie. But the guy in question ' and it's almost always a guy, rarely a girl ' is usually just this side of puberty, newly awash in hormones. What The 40-Year-Old Virgin wants to do is take us another 20 to 25 years further on, when the very idea of getting laid, if it still hasn't happened, seems as remote as growing up to become president once seemed. Growing up is the theme of this refreshingly potty-mouthed comedy, which stars Steve Carell as an electronics-store stock boy who collects action figures in their original, mint-condition boxes. Symbolists will note that action is the one thing Carell's Andy hasn't been getting.
The movie opens with a had-me-from-hello moment, Andy roused ' or should I say aroused? ' from his slumbers with an impressive case of morning wood. The guy clearly has something he'd like to share with the rest of the world, but an early trauma involving braces, along with the usual terrors of the dating scene and an inexplicable fondness for the magic of Doug Henning, have conspired to keep him home alone on Saturday nights. And that's where he might remain if not for the combined efforts of three fellow employees ' Paul Rudd, Romany Malco and Seth Rogen, the Three Stooges of sex comedy ' who take it upon themselves to get Andy past his eligibility for the priesthood. With such boneheaded assistance, he doesn't have a prayer.
Picking up where Wedding Crashers left off, The 40-Year-Old Virgin veritably wallows in its R rating, talking dirty and flashing flesh. But director Judd Apatow, who co-wrote the script with Carell, wants to strike a There's Something About Mary balance between sex comedy and romantic comedy, lust and love, which brings on Catherine Keener as the one other person in the movie who has something other than sex on the brain. Adding a little ditziness to her usual toughness, Keener helps ground things, and Carell seems to enjoy being with her, since it allows him to act something resembling his age. It's when he's expected to act half or even a fourth his age that Carell seems like a man sent to do a boy's job. Alas, he's not entirely convincing as a virgin.
Imagine Jim Carrey in the part. Or the young Jerry Lewis. Carell has done some fine work on 'The Daily Show' and elsewhere, but he's at his best playing know-it-all know-nothings, not super-dweebs. And Andy is clearly a super-dweeb, marching around his apartment playing the baritone, as if he were participating in his very own Rose Bowl Parade. Apatow, who nailed high school in 'Freaks and Geeks,' then nailed college in 'Undeclared,' has trouble landing on an age group this time around. Andy seems like a 20-year-old virgin's idea of a 40-year-old virgin, despite the fact that Apatow and Carell are around 40 themselves. Then again, the 20-year-olds I saw the movie with ' all of them virgins, no doubt ' seemed to be having the time of their lives.