||Also known as “Porky’s: The Mid-Life Crisis Edition.” Okay, that’s not a completely fair dismissal of this extravagantly raunchy comedy, which moves faster and is much better written that Bob Clark’s 1991 horny teen movie. But it’s not entirely off-base, either. “The 40Year-Old Virgin” fits pretty snugly into what’s become a major cinematic niche this summer: R-rated farces. It opens with an erection sight-gag and, though there are significant detours into sweetness territory in the second hour, remains fairly consistently on the same wavelength, in terms of both dialogue and situations, for the duration. It thus joins “The Wedding Crashers,” which is seeming tamer and tamer as the season goes on, and the atrocious “Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo” in a category which used to be a release rarity but is once again becoming more common. It’s also the latest in a string of Universal pictures that have played this particular tune to considerable success. The series of “American Pie” movies and last year’s smash “Meet the Fockers” exalted in gross-out stuff and attracted huge and appreciative audiences.
The popularity of movies that skirt--or more often cross--the boundaries of good taste is nothing new, of course. There’s a venerable tradition of British sex comedies, and the French have never shied away from similar material. As far as the modern Hollywood variety is concerned, your reaction to this example is likely to follow your feelings about the earlier ones. The audience with whom this reviewer previewed “Virgin”--or most of them, at least--obviously found the movie a real gut-buster. The laughter was loud and sustained, just as it had been when I saw “Fockers” months ago. If you went into hysterics over the coarse humor in that picture, this one should be your cup of tea, too.
On the other hand, if you found “Fockers” and its ilk offensive (or just not very funny), you’re likely to react similarly to “Virgin.” (There were a few walk-outs at the preview, too.) I didn’t care for “Fockers,” and though “Virgin” is more cleverly written than that picture, most of it is still more crass than genuinely funny. Steve Carell, of “The Daily Show” amd “The Office,” plays Andy, a nerdy forty year-old who’s never enjoyed the company of a woman: he’s a likable if sadly stultified stock manager at a local electronics store who spends more time with his video games and his huge collection of collectible action figures than with other human beings. (His sole social engagement appears to be watching “Survivor” each week with the elderly couple upstairs.) When three of his co-workers--Jay (Romany Malco), a black dude with a girlfriend he regularly cheats on; Cal (Seth Rogen),, a bearded fellow free with dumb advice on how to approach women; and Dave (Paul Rudd), a guy still seething at being dumped by his girlfriend--learn about his “condition,” they make it their business to help him get laid. The effort takes them--especially Andy--through a series of risque and slapsticky episodes--a visit to a hair-waxing salon, a fast ride with a drunk girl picked up at a singles’ bar, a session at a sex counselor’s office, a dating convention, etc.--but it also brings our hero into an (initially sexless) relationship with a scrappy divorcee (Catherine Keener) with three kids and a grandchild, and--as it turns out--ultimately leads to happy endings for his three “helpers” as well.
So “The 40 Year-Old Virgin” has a story of sorts, but a very slender one that Judd Apatow and Carell have used merely as a frame on which to hang what amount to sketches, a few aiming for charm but most constructed to elicit belly-laughs from material ranging from the mildly naughty to the fairly gross (and there’s even a surrealistic closing musical number--thank you, Galt MacDermot). What makes it work as well as it does--depending on your point of view, of course--is the sprightliness of Apatow’s direction and the attractiveness of the cast. Carell has to be likable and charming though playing utterly up-tight, and he manages the feat, while Keener must play both breezy and vulnerable, and she’s successful too. But it’s really Rudd, Malco and Rogen who keep the movie afloat with their wacky energy. The picture’s also fine from the technical perspective; the production design looks spiffy and it’s well shot.
So ultimately your reaction to “The 40 Year-Old Virgin” is going to depend on your tolerance of humor that’s rude, crude and in-your-face. If you like this sort of thing, it’s a well-made example of it. If--like me--you don’t find that brand of comedy terribly amusing, well, you’ve been warned.