- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 18, 2005

So you loved “Wedding Crashers.” You want more. Meet Andy Stitzer. Age: 40. Occupation: technology store stock supervisor. Hobbies: making the perfect egg salad sandwich, collecting vintage action-figure toys, watching “Survivor” and playing video games. Marital status: virgin.

Gentlemen, start your engines.

“The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” an unapologetically hilarious sex farce, ridicules Andy’s plight — and it really is a plight: We’re talking about terminal loneliness here, not adolescent sexual frustration. Then, much like “Crashers,” it turns in on itself and becomes a long-winded (if perverted) advertisement for virtue. Some might see this as a cop-out; I see it as a well-intentioned grace note to two hours of junk-cultural revelry and industrial-strength tastelessness. Indeed, this movie’s carnal carousing makes “Crashers” look like dinner theater.

Andy is played by Steve Carell of “The Daily Show” and “Anchorman” fame. Mr. Carell, who co-wrote the movie with first-time director Judd Apatow, is a mensch for choosing this role as a leading-man vehicle. Credit where it’s due: Mr. Carell actually acts (except when getting his chest hair waxed — that’s for real, and you’ll see bubbles of blood to prove it). He plays Andy, the only schlub in Los Angeles who doesn’t own a car, not as a likable chump but rather as someone who deserves both our pity and respect. He can be cringe-inducingly awkward and then, once he’s comfortable, slip in a razor-sharp bon mot. In short, Andy is human, not the grotesque punch line that movie trailers might lead you to believe.

Mr. Carell’s Andy ends up making chumps of his sex-obsessed work buddies, who vow to find their less fortunate friend a sex partner when his state of purity is revealed over a game of poker. There’s new age poseur David (Paul Rudd, another “Anchorman” holdover); booty-chasing black man Jay (Romany Malco); and big man Cal (Seth Rogen). Each one of these sidekicks brings a different sort of ludicrousness to the table and, when they’re together at Smart Tech, an electronic appliance store on some nondescript stretch of L.A. concrete, “40” is as satirically on-point as “Office Space.”

Andy not-so-reluctantly agrees that he needs to do the deed, but he doesn’t jump at just any piece of willing flesh. He passes on a drunken bachelorette party castoff (Leslie Mann) and a zany bookstore salesgirl (Elizabeth Banks). Trendy speed dating proves a bust. Eventually, he sets his sights on Trish, an Internet auctioneer played by Catherine Keener, who adds a touch of damaged class to the movie’s jackhammering juvenilia.

Although it could’ve lost 15 minutes or so, “40” clicks at every turn. Every diversion brings new laughs — whether it’s Andy being locked overnight in Smart Tech and forced to study porn movies on giant flat-screen TVs or the comparatively complex tragicomedy in Trish’s house, where 16-year-old Marla (Kat Dennings) butts heads with mom (already a grandmom) over access to birth control.

Don’t let the latter fool you into thinking “40” tries to flaunt a brain. Mr. Carell and Mr. Apatow, who hails from the land of smart TV (“The Larry Sanders Show,” “Freaks and Geeks”), loaded this puppy with more bodily function gags, liquor-fueled exploits and pot jokes than you can shake a tail feather at.

It does have a heart, though.

And if it takes that kind of tonic to convince the fair sex that mindless, groin-operated comedies like these are worth their time, then I say all the better.

***

TITLE: “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”

RATING: R (Profanity; pervasive sexuality; crude humor; drug use)

CREDITS: Directed by Judd Apatow. Produced by Mr. Apatow, Shauna Robertson and Clayton Townsend. Written by Mr. Apatow and Steve Carell. Cinematography by Jack N. Green.

RUNNING TIME: 116 minutes.

WEB SITE: www.the40yearoldvirgin.com

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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