The Opposite of Sex


With the same demographic savvy of Wedding Crashers, The 40-Year-Old Virgin melds frat-house sex comedy with dewy romantic deliverance out of said frat-house—you come for the testoteriffic ambience and you stay for the chick flick. Andy (Steve Carell) works in an electronics store, lives alone among hand-painted model soldiers and vintage action figures, and has never had sex. Trash-talking with his randy workmates (Paul Rudd, Romany Malco, and Seth Rogen), Andy gives the game away when he uncertainly describes a breast as “like a bag of sand,” while his improvisations of pillow talk (“Me so horny” etc.) twinge the same queasying comedy nerve as The Office, evoking some lost episode wherein David Brent accidentally exposes his unpopped cherry.

As if casting themselves in the belated sequel to Losin’ It, Andy’s flabbergasted colleagues become the architects of a sacred quest for nooky, which variously entails locking Andy in the store overnight while porn plays on all screens, waxing his chest hair, and tutoring him in the dark art of the pickup line; stoner Jedi master Cal (Rogen) at one point intones that oft forgotten command from the Zen handbook, “Be David Caruso in Jade,” a bidding that Andy grasps with an instinctual, even mystical authority. Andy soon gets the girl but not, at first, the goods; with sunny Trish (Catherine Keener), he veils his lack of erotic know-how with a temporary no-sex policy that she eagerly embraces. At home with his plastic roommates, including Atomic Man and Aquaman (still in their original packaging!), Andy must calculate how many childish things he must put away to make room for the love of a good woman, though his form of arrested development may be favorably compared to that of his buddies—lovelorn David (Rudd), for one, hits bottom when he starts making in-store documentaries of his own ass.

Written by Carell and director Judd Apatow (of Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared), the Virgin script occasionally resets a gold standard for refined crudery, but it also continues a hot new trend of post-p.c. nyah-nyah ostentation—also evident in Wedding Crashers, Bad News Bears, and The Dukes of Hazzard—whereby ethnic inclusiveness can write a blank check for ethnic stereotyping and the homo-panic jokes are supposed to be on the hetero lunkheads, not on, y’know, the gays. The movie takes the same both-sides-now approach to chastity itself. You’d think it would take more than Trish’s discovery of Andy’s porn stash—and it’s not even his!—to instigate the compulsory Big Misunderstanding between fully grown sweethearts (which begs the question, if Andy really had a porn stash, would all this have ended in tears?), and her magic endorsement of his sexual non-history—”You’re a virgin. . . . That’s good, that’s a good thing”—seems grafted out of the inevitable Mandy Moore vehicle Silver Ring Thing: The Movie. Especially given the dating travails of Andy’s pals, what looks at first like missing out is conveniently retrofitted as saving yourself. Of course, the light but unmistakable whiff of prudery may actually enhance The 40-Year- Old Virgin‘s multi-quadrant market appeal—the film has its virginity and loses it too.

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 9, 2005

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