Never Been Laid

The accidental virgin

THE 40 YEAR-OLD VIRGIN: Written, directed and produced by Judd Apatow. Produced by Clayton Townsend, Shauna Robertson. Excutive producer, Jon Poll. Cinematography, Jack Green. Production design, Jackson De Govia. Editor, Brent White. Costume design, Debra McGuire. Music by Lyle Workman. Staring Steve Carell, with Catherine Keener, Paul Rudd, Romany Malco and Seth Rogen. Also with Elizabeth Banks, Leslie Mann, Jane Lynch. Universal Pictures, 2005. R. 111 minutes.

Before the first appearance of Trish (Catherine Keener), The 40-Year-Old Virgin clearly seemed a frat-house horn-dog’s movie. The guys who work at an electronics store are not just randy but also pathetic. Pothead idealist Cal (Seth Rogen) is deeply clueless. Streetwise womanizer Jay (Romany Malco) feels bad that he cheats on his girlfriend. Lovelorn David (Paul Rudd) finally flips out and turns an in-store videocam on his butt. When these fellas invite their quiet but strange co-worker, Andy (Steve Carell), to play poker, it’s a mere matter of time before they start swapping sex stories.

While some guys can tell dirty jokes and make you laugh, these dudes cannot describe their own sexual experiences without making you angry if you are a woman. Their sex anecdotes are frequently misogynistic and/or infantile. But when it comes to storytelling, no sexually inexperienced man can make up a believable story, period. So it is for middle-aged Andy, and afterwards, all the guys make a project of setting him up for sex. Three women open to the idea of sex with Andy include his horny boss (Jane Lynch), party girl Nicky (Leslie Mann), and a sexy bookstore clerk, Beth (Elizabeth Banks).

In the middle of Andy’s store-wide humiliation, his life changes. Trish walks in. He sells her a combo VCR-DVD player and learns she owns a peculiar business across the street, where she sells merchandise for customers over the Internet. Trish gives Andy her card and her telephone number. In this movie of few subtleties, the emphasis on sex is slowly replaced by the scent of romance and true love. Can commitment and fidelity be far behind?

Here I note the obvious, that a film with the title The Forty Year-Old Virgin telegraphs its basic premise for all to read and none to misunderstand. But 111 minutes is a long time to stretch out one joke. Rigorous editing could have shaved off 20 minutes and rid the film of a few repetitive jokes and over-the-top stunts. These fillers are not as original as the comic sketches on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” where Carell made his name. Even so, don’t be embarrassed to laugh out loud, worn down by the relentless barrage of bad taste.

As the jokes become tiresome, Carell chooses to underplay his character. Andy turns quietly persuasive, sexy, competent. After he and Trish decide to postpone sex while they get to know each other, Andy is so relieved that he “forgets” to tell Trish his secret.

Despite its excesses and unfailingly inappropriate moments, Virgin has a sweetness about it that comes from Carell and Keener’s performances. As a single parent of three children, Trish has learned patience, which Keener expresses as a generally unflappable good humor. Carell’s Andy finds maturity a comfortable fit, which brings him credibility.

Now playing at Cinema World and Cinemark, The 40Year-Old Virgin is an entertaining sex comedy.