Film review: It’s funny ‘Virgin’ territory

Like the life of a party who runs out of jokes before the party’s over, Judd Apatow’s ‘The 40-Year-Old Virgin’ can’t sustain its nearly two-hour running time. But it sure comes close.

Starring Steve Carell (NBC’s ‘The Office’), who co-wrote the script and stars as a middle-age nerd who possesses a priceless collection of GI Joe dolls but not a single sexual war story, ‘The 40-Year-Old Virgin’ racks up bigger belly laughs — and more of them — than ‘Wedding Crashers.’

Carell, a ‘Daily Show’ alum who first caught moviegoers’ attention as the TV anchorman with a possessed mouth in ‘Bruce Almighty,’ gives a breakout performance in the title role, creating a character who would be downright pathetic if he weren’t so darn lovable. An electronics-store clerk in Los Angeles, Carell’s Andy Stitzer has managed to avoid “knowing” a woman because of a perfect-storm combination of shyness, fear, geekiness and, important in LA, a critical lack of transportation. While his contemporaries were being initiated in the back seats of cars, he was riding a bike. Still is. Wearing a helmet that looks about as hip as a World War I pilot’s skullcap, Andy pedals to work every day, where he joins a fraternal pack of coworkers who eye him with suspicion. “I think he’s a serial killer,” says one.

Once he confesses his virginity to his coworkers, however, his three new pals (Paul Rudd, Romany Malco, Seth Rogen) are determined to help him end his drought. They take him to nightclubs and instruct him on how to pick up drunk women, bring him to a match service where he gets one minute each with 20 women, and escort him to a salon where he endures the torture of having his matted chest hair waxed away. The last scene is worth the price of admission all by itself. Through it all, Andy has an opportunity for a genuine romantic relationship in the person of single mom Trish (Catherine Keener), who works across the street in the “We Sell It for You on eBay” store.

When he finally takes her out and she suggests that they not get physical for at least three dates, he ups the ante to 20 dates, knowing that he - perhaps unlike any other man - can handle the frustration. Until it enters its sentimental stage late in the game, ‘The 40-Year-Old Virgin’ works on every level. The humour and language are as crude as an R rating allows, but Carell and Apatow’s script is so hip, funny and - yes - innocent that it’s never offensive.

Carell is brilliant at pulling off a character who is about two sprocket holes out of sync with society, and he is ably supported by everyone in the cast. His three sexual mentors may have plenty of experience, but each has a more immature attitude about sex than he does.

The three actors playing his buddies are hilarious in their own ways. Keener (‘Being John Malkovich’) has never been as free and engaging as she is here, and Jane Lynch is a kick as the boys’ electronics-store boss, who volunteers to break Andy in.

I don’t think I’m giving anything away to say that Andy does not end the movie in the same condition as he begins it. And when he does become a man, it proves to be worth the wait — for him and for us. (‘The 40-Year-old Virgin,’ Genre: Romantic comedy, Cast: Steve Carell, Catherine Keener, Director: Judd Apatow, Running time: 1 hour, 55 minutes)