It’s pretty easy to describe the plot of this film. There is a guy. He is aged 40. He has not yet had sex.
Am I going to fast for you to keep up?
No different to dozens of cinematic abortions that pass for teenage sex-comedies: American Pie, Road Trip, Everyone Must Get Laid Before Graduating 3, Hey Smell My Finger etc… only the age of the protagonist has changed, meaning he must deal with different circumstances and impediments than the typical horny teen.
(I’m not saying that there is no place for teen sex-comedies, only that once you are no longer in the target demographic I find it hard to root (so to speak) for the generally loathsome guy to get the hot blond chick. (The Girl Next Door is the only notable example of a smart sex-comedy for a few years.)
The 40 YOV also launched several careers, notably Steve Carell (though this is still his high point unfortunately), Seth Rogen (heavily faux-tatted here), Jonah Hill (in a bit role before Superbad) and Paul Rudd as a go-to comedy guy, (he NEVER gets I Love You, Man or Role Models without this, let alone Forgetting Sarah Marshall).
Furthering the plot description. Andy is the titular virgin, an ultra-nice guy who works in the back office of an electronics store, he is conservative, shy and keeps to himself in a home that only a teen-who-won-lotto would consider normal. Let’s just say that computer games, karaoke, comic books, action figures and “army men” are prevalent in Andy’s after-hours activity.
He also rides a bicycle everywhere.
And this guy can’t pull the ladies!?!
One evening in a poker game it comes to light that Andy is somewhat inexperienced and his workmates set about remedying that situation, not realizing that Andy is basically happy with his circumstances and aside from the normal bodily urges has no overriding desire to change who he is, (or who he does).
The remainder of the movie sees Andy have misadventures with drunk women, chat up techniques, speed dating, workplace relations, transvestite call- “girls”, male grooming and of course self-lovin’.
After a time though he coincidentally meets a woman who works nearby, (played by Catherine Keener in the only straight role in the film) and the two start dating, leading to the inevitable “next step” decision.
So I guess The 40 YOV is a non-teen, non-sex comedy for the most part, although it does have as much crude humour as you can poke a “big box o’ porn” at, and does have various nipple sightings along the way.
One thing it is though is funny. Funnier than every film (excluding Hey Smell My Finger, that was genius!) listed above combined.
The reason for that? The premise is amusing but will only take you so far, the primary reason is that the cast interact in a believable way for the most part, and you actually can see most of the events here happening, but the banter, teasing and ad-libbing that fills every scene here is always amusing and frequently hilarious.
Because early on in the film Judd Apatow chose to go just a little further with character development than normal comedies, we know how each of the four main workmates will react:
Andy (Carrell) – Conservative. Will sheer away from confrontation or “adult situations”.
Cal (Rogen) – Pothead backroom guy. A pervert.
Jay (Romany Malco) – Not the token black guy but an “urban” presence nonetheless, a habitual cheater always looking for an angle with the ladies.
David (Rudd) – Acts like he is newly single but in fact has been for 2 years after a brief relationship.
The four guys share most of the first half of the film together and are responsible for almost every laugh in the film, they banter and tease one another in a totally realistic way, and even the step too far “You know how I know you’re gay” bit is almost replicated by thousands of straight guys in normal conversation on a daily basis.
By the way, it doesn’t go too far in any homophobic way, they just kept the joke going too long until the laughs ran out.
This movie is actually to blame for dozens of shitty comedies made in recent years, and also indirectly for Will Ferrell’s success, as the ad-libbing element that worked so well here has been done to death. Here ad-libbing means “just keep the scene going until you run out of stuff, then we’ll move on and in the edit I’ll keep the funniest take. Nowadays it is “Let’s see what inane description Will Ferrell can yell this time, before he runs out of ideas and simply takes his clothes off. Again.”
Surely that is still hilarious?
The strength of The 40 Year Old Virgin is that the film keeps moving, Apatow wisely keeps the plot moving and allows the actors and the action to create the laughs. There are many scenes that still are funny the 4th or 5th time around, the dialogue is at times gross without overstepping, and the bit parts (MOOJ!!) add to the comedy even if they do little for the plot.
Oh, and it helps that you actually want Andy to do well for himself. So much so that by the end when he is faced with two distinct choices (one a hot young Elizabeth Banks in a spa just gagging for it no less!) you want him to choose the right one.
Even if you absolutely would not in the same circumstances.
Final Rating – 8.5 / 10. Probably my favourite comedy of the last decade, smart, charming, gross, and hilarious, all in the proper proportions.