Friday, June 22, 2012

Judd Apatow, What Were You Thinking?!

The Good: Amusing concept, Acting
The Bad: Terrible execution of concept, not funny, most of the characters
The Basics: Not terribly funny or even entertaining, The 40 Year Old Virgin gives some decent actors work, though it's not worth it for them or us.

Judd Apatow, creator of Freaks And Geeks (a worthy show, reviewed here!) was the key selling point for me to sit and watch The 40 Year Old Virgin. Apatow created a funny, endearing and clever show that I loved. That got him a lot of points in my book. He pretty much used all of them up with The 40 Year Old Virgin. Under the heading that "life is too short for softcore," I viewed the Unrated version of the DVD for my review and while I can see how the regular release might have been "R," there's nothing here in the unrated edition that seemed like an 18 year old could not handle.

Andy Stitzer is an introverted 40 year-old who has never had sex and works at a Circuit City-type store with his three much more experienced friends. One day, he meets Trish a woman who works across the street and instantly shows interest in him. Andy's friends David, Jay and Cal begin to prepare Andy for a relationship under the notion that if he wants the relationship to truly work, he has to go through some women as practice so his first sexual experience isn't terrible.

The 40 Year Old Virgin suffers not so much in concept, but in execution. I can see how the idea of a 40 year-old virgin could be funny. A guy who has never had sex and wants to start faces any number of difficulties that could be funny. The problem is that The 40 Year Old Virgin isn't terribly funny and the moments that are are almost completely mortgaged by the beastly parts that aren't funny.

So, for example, there are large portions of dialogue that have nothing to do with the rest of the movie that are more mortifying than related to the story. The peak of these is a confrontation between Jay, Andy's token black friend, and a black customer in the store. The two fight and the point of the episode is too opaque to describe in context.

Similarly, the characters are mostly idiotic and stereotypically male. Jay exhibits the prejudicial misogyny and promiscuity associated with black men and David and Cal are equally emotionally shallow for the bulk of the movie (especially Cal). The men are opportunistic, predatory and treat sex as a means to an end for their own personal release. It means nothing to them beyond their own satisfaction.

And the women in The 40 Year Old Virgin are only slightly less stereotypical, though often no better portrayed. Trish is angry and only happy with Andy when she is trying to change him, the rest of the women are drunk idiots who are ready to put out with any man who shows them any attention. Jay's girlfriend is ignorant of his extra-relationship activities and oblivious to his misogyny.

All around, The 40 Year Old Virgin is populated with characters who are entirely unintelligent and emotionally disconnected, unlike characters in Apatow's other works. The movie was co-written by Judd Apatow and lead actor Steve Carell, though I would think both would want to distance themselves from this work. For two people used to being funny, it's amazing they created something so unredeemably stupid.

The best character in this movie is Trish's teenage daughter, who is looking to become sexually active herself. While she plays the stereotype of the indifferent teenager with a heart of gold, the character is a welcome change from the imperceptive morons embodied by the other characters.

The only thing that makes The 40 Year Old Virgin even bearable beyond the trailer is the acting. Outside the witless dance number at the climax of the movie, the actors remain in character and do a good job of convincing the viewer of their character's narrow views of the world. It's always nice to see Seth Rogen getting work and his portrayal of Cal is amusing throughout. Rogen is able to play the straightman and deadpan well.

Catherine Keener does well as Trish. Keener plays a believable small business owner and mother who is struggling to meet decent guys. Keener has a quiet sadness to her that she allows to come through in some of the movie's softer scenes.

It is Steve Carell that the movie ought to rest on, but the script and airtime of the other characters drags even his performance down. Carell plays Andy with humor that never breaks from the character. Carell plays the nervous geek quite well and as Andy he creates something of an archetype. The problem comes in the hair removal scene. As he has a waxing, he begins to swear up a storm and Carell delivers his lines extraordinarily well and with a fury that is formidable. The problem is where Andy delivers his anger. Carell plays the anger perfectly, but because the anger is directed at the worker and not his friends, the character is revealed to be as base as his comrades.

What ultimately knocked this further for me was the constant, juvenile exhortation of "gay" as a pejorative. Cal and David have a whole scene - extended on the Unrated version - of why the other is gay and it's just a collection of stupid, lame and/or hateful statements that only reinforces the meanest concepts in the minds of the people this movie is most likely to appeal to.

For other works with Kat Dennings, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Two Broke Girls - Season 1
Nick And Norah’s Infinite Playlist
Charlie Bartlett


For other movie reviews, be sure to check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the films I have reviewed!

© 2012, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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