I’ve written before how an endearing character can elevate a motion picture by himself or herself. From my perspective, the most difficult kind of film to elevate is the gross-out comedy – especially when such a performance makes the film one of the best of its genre over the previous generation. “The 40 Year-Old-Virgin” is past its 10th anniversary and it while it dives deep in raunch-comedy to set classic marks for great profane one-liners and one of the all-time, fall-down, funniest scenes … it offers not one but two endearing characters and both actors give their best in this one. Don’t be fooled, this is definitely an R-rated film laced with crudity and crass sexual comments, but it hits a home run and I’m sure you’ve seen it.
‘The 40 Year Old Virgin’
(2005; 116 minutes; rated R; directed by Judd Apatow and starring Steve Carell, Catherine Keener, Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen)
HE LOOKS LIKE A MAN-O-LANTERN!
(NOTE: I expanded this review with some more opinion and trivia and the updating of links on Aug. 1, 2018.)
I define “The 40 Year-Old-Virgin” by one scene where Steve Carell gets his chest hair waxed. Second-for-second, it is simply the funniest scene in a movie in the past 25 years. However, “The 40 Year-Old-Virgin” isn’t just defined by this one scene – it is nearly two solid hours of hysterical fun from Judd Apatow, who followed this one up with the nearly equally funny “Knocked Up.”
Although no winner with or even nominated by the Oscar or Golden Globe crowds (who needs ‘em?), “The 40 Year-Old-Virgin” was named movie of the year 2005 by the American Film Institute. OK, it was one of 10 named “best.” Even had it not received recognition from the AFI, I would still say “The 40 Year-Old-Virgin” is one of the five best comedies of the past quarter century.
On the acting front you get great headliners (two-time Oscar nominee Catherine Keener and Oscar nominee Carell) who go the extra mile to make their characters endearing, but also truly special supporting work by Seth Rogen (he of the later controversy with “The Interview”); the talented but vastly underrated Paul Rudd; the simply marvelous and Golden Globe winner Jane Lynch; and the somewhat unknown but hilarious Romany Malco.
The scenes in “The 40 Year-Old-Virgin” are just too many to list. From speed dating to having his friends set him up with a girl who turns out to be a transvestite, to where Carell takes Keener’s daughter to a clinic to find out about birth control (don’t worry, the film actually has a plot that works and this isn’t just one shock-scene segue to another) to the waxing scene, you barely get a break to catch your breath from all your laughter.
In short, Carell is a 40-year-old mild-mannered stock guy at an electronics store. All the twenty-something (and even a much older salesman) are continually talking about and planning for sexual escapades. Carell, who is a virgin and become tremendously uncomfortable when his friends find out, ultimately meets a woman, flubs the first sexual encounter and then pursues a non-sexual relationship until the end of the motion picture.
You’d never be able to call this one “sweet” because of its over-the-top crudity, but it is a nice love story that packs something of a message.
Here’s a rundown on the headliners:
- Carell is simply smooth in this role of “Andy Stitzer.” He doesn’t appear to strain at all in making his character’s character, humanity and basic decency come through loud and clear (just like his yelling during the waxing scene). I don’t know if any other actor was considered, but I cannot imagine anyone but Carell doing as good a job in this role. He has also been in “Dinner for Schmucks” and “Evan Almighty” but is best remembered as “Michael Scott” on TV’s “The Office.” He was nominated for 2014’s “Foxcatcher.”
- Keener, like Carell, does wonderful work here as “Trish Piedmont,” who is a single mother trying to keep things together at home while looking for a relationship. Keener, who was nominated for “Being John Malkovich” and “Capote,” could teach a class on how to portray such a woman because of her effectiveness here. She was also in “Captain Phillips” with Tom Hanks.
And now, the supporting actors who provide the profane muscle to the film:
- Rudd does a great job here as “David” – the continual moper who’s pining for a lost love that’s not so much lost as having left him. He does a great job with moodiness and general negativity and is almost as good here as he was in “Role Models” (click here for my review). Rudd knows comedy and he knows his audience and I cannot recall a poor effort from him. He was also wonderfully droll in “Knocked Up.”
- Malco, who plays “Jay,” is wonderfully aggressive and is the impetus for Carell getting waxed. He is superb as the friend having his own trouble with his girlfriend (he even has the guys doing speed-dating at one point) and is outspoken with his opinions. He’s also been in “Blades of Glory” and “Last Vegas.”
- Golden Globe winner Lynch plays “Paula,” who’s the boss of the guys at the store. She offers to be intimate with Carell if he would like a certain kind of “buddy” and gives a typical performance for her – solid, funny and breezily confident in herself and her character. She’s almost as good here as she was with Rudd in “Role Models.” Lynch is most recognizable from TV’s “Glee” and had a somewhat recurring character as a therapist on TV’s “Two and a Half Men” (prior to the show dissolving into the nothingness brought on by Charlie Sheen leaving and the talentless Ashton Kutcher arriving).
- The weakest member of the supporting cast is Rogen as “Cal,” but weak here is a solid performance matched up against special ones by other actors. Rogen, like the others, is smooth in his delivery and can be funny just by being in a scene. He was the co-star in “Knocked Up” and was in “Superbad” and “Pineapple Express.”
- The most verbally explosive character is Malco’s girlfriend “Jill,” who is played by Erica Vittina Phillips. She is wonderfully aggressive, especially confronting Carell over speed-dating notes she found (they were Malco’s, but he told her they were Carell’s to avoid her finding out about his ongoing cheating). Phillips knows how to take command in a scene and has been in “Step Brothers” and “This is 40.” She should get her own sitcom based on this performance alone.
- Lost in the shuffle is the secondary female lead Elizabeth Banks, who plays “Beth” and looks to hook up with Carell. Of course her scenes are funny, but it’s not a real career-builder of a role with such a one-dimensional effort. Banks was in “The Hunger Games” franchise.
- Wonderfully profane in his limited screen time is Gerry Bednob as store employee “Mooj.” He’s always castigating someone and is just a treat in each of his scenes. Bednob has been in “Witless Protection” with Larry the Cable Guy.
“The 40 Year-Old-Virgin” was the 19th ranked film in 2005 at the domestic box office with $119.4 million in ticket sales, according to Box Office Mojo. It was a hit with investors, too, as it made $177.4 million worldwide on a budget of $26 million, according to Wiki. The No. 1 film of the year was “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith” with $380.2 million. Another really great comedy that year was “Wedding Crashers” (sixth with $209.2 million). Other films from that year I’ve reviewed are:
- “Bad News Bears” (OK remake of classic) – click here for my review
- “Cheaper by the Dozen 2” (good comedy sequel) – click here for my review
- “Dukes of Hazzard” (nice update of TV show) – click here for my review
- “A History of Violence” (terrific dark drama) – click here for my review
- “Monster-In-Law” (very funny J-Lo/Fonda) – click here for my review
Assorted cast and film notes (via IMDb.com):
- Filmmakers and the cast said in interviews that much of the film was improvised. I’d say they were the group best equipped in comedy that year to pull it off.
- One actor, Shelley Malil, who plays store employee “Haziz,” was sentenced to life in jail in 2010. Here’s the IMDb.com entry: “On December 16, 2010 Malil, who had been found guilty by a jury of premeditated attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon, was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole for stabbing his girlfriend Kendra Beebe 23 times.”
- Jonah Hill has a small part as a customer in Keener’s store. It wasn’t a problem for him to be better in both “Moneyball” and “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
- Directly from IMDb.com: “The scene where Andy has his chest hair removed required five cameras set up for the shot. Star Steve Carell‘s chest hair was actually ripped out in the scene. The actor had told director Judd Apatow just before shooting the scene: “It has to be real. It won’t be as funny if it’s mocked up or if it’s special effect. You have to see that this is really happening.” The scene had to be done in one shot.”
- Click here for IMDb.com’s extensive trivia page about the film.
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