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Charming Carell shines in ’40 Year-Old Virgin’

Elizabeth Ludemann | Wednesday, August 31, 2005

In the summer of “Star Wars,” Brangelina, Tomcat, and remakes galore, not many would have guessed that a film about a 40-year-old virgin with no bankable stars would rule the box office for two straight weekends. Only six out of this year’s 29 box office number ones have been films with no big-name stars, and the latest does not disappoint.

Carried by Steve Carell, former correspondent on “The Daily Show,” the film is a work of comedic genius, blending insight and humor.

The film’s unlikely hero is Andy Stitzer (Carell), a man who rides a bike to his job at an electronics store and collects action figures in his spare time. More appropriately, he is infatuated with these “collectibles,” to the point that they fill his entire apartment, aided by his impressive stash of video games.

His weekend’s most exciting moment: making egg salad. He’s generally an odd bird, and his co-workers are more than aware of this.

One night, after being invited to a poker game, Andy accidentally reveals to the shock and horror of his new buddies, that he is a virgin. A 40-year-old virgin. After the initial amazement and a few rather hurtful jokes, the co-workers make Andy’s deflowering their new mission.

So Andy enters the dating world, experiencing failure after failure. Then, along comes Trish (Catherine Keener), a single mom who enables Andy to get past his shyness and fear. She, of course, is not aware that Andy is a virgin, and as their relationship progresses, his secret becomes more pressing.

The film works for a number of reasons, the most important of which is the treatment of the main character. Instead of being presented as a loser, Andy Stitzer is shown to be a nice and decent guy who is almost painfully polite. He is not a freak show or a social outcast. At one point, he reveals his humanness when he explains to his friends how he happened to remain a virgin for so long: after a while, he just stopped trying, and it became a non-issue.

The chemistry between Carell and Keener is another big reason the film works so well. The plot necessitates that their relationship remain innocent for some time, and the leads make this not only believable, but engaging as well.

“The 40 Year Old Virgin” is one of those rare films that is successful at being both a hilarious sex comedy and a sweet romance. It paradoxically alternates between vulgarity and innocence. The comedy is perfectly constructed and delivered, offering the audience a plethora of one-liners and belly-laugh moments. But between the dirty jokes and sexual innuendos, the audience actually comes to care about these characters.

The bottom line is that this is a sweet movie with a good heart. It is one of the funniest, if not the funniest, movies of the year.

There’s only one downside: your face may hurt from all the smiling.