The 40 Year Old Virgin Is Still Funny, Even If Some Parts Haven’t Aged Well
These days, Steve Carell, Seth Rogan, and Paul Rudd can be seen on both the big and small screen every few months. They’re almost household names — or at least between their works and most famous characters, they are. One is your clueless boss, another the stoner down the street, and one is even an Avenger, kinda.
While you can see where they are now, in 2005 these actors were definitely on a lower level of notoriety. Almost analogous to the Frat Pack, the Judd Apatow generation began in this move from television to cinema. Having been a fan of Freaks and Geeks for years, knowing this film was made and getting rave reviews had me excited at the time. With one viewing, it definitely became my favorite modern comedy at that moment.
Comedy Aging with Grace
Every now and then you see a comedy film that fits perfectly into the era, yet ages as time goes on. We’ve had our fair share — we’ve heard from friends and fans of the show that they thought we were hard on poorly aged comedies like Good Luck Chuck and Mr. Deeds. But with Apatow you expect a bit more, I think. He’s known as a writer and director who handles more mature comedy. Yet he broke on to the comedy film scene with what can be described as a sex comedy.
The 40 Year Old Virgin is a sex comedy, but it’s also more than that. Sure, its overall aesthetic is tied to the early 2000s, but it has a ton of heart. It also avoids the aforementioned aging to a great degree, mostly because the jokes still land without seeming overly crude or out of date. Where the film fails still falls flat, but these hiccups don’t hurt the overall picture.
Good Writing Goes Far
We’ve mentioned before that comedy is best when it’s balanced between the different mechanics. While slapstick, situational, and gross-out all have their place, using all three effectively within one picture is a good call. There are films like Master of Disguise that mostly use impressions and bad gags to get a laugh, but even drawing a comparison here is a disservice to The 40 Year Old Virgin. Regardless, it shows that the writing here is well balanced, thought out, and evergreen.
Both Apatow and Carell wrote this film together, and we mention that Carell went as far as to write a clean version of it, just in case the producers backed away from the original concept. This comedy has heart, regardless, showing a character who grows from someone who is scared to experience that major portion of life he’s overlooked. Andy is likable, but stunted in growth. He’s not unattractive, he’s not un-charming, and he’s not dumb. He’s actually the opposite, but he is convinced he can’t be those things. Watching Andy grow from a goofy toy collector to an eligible bachelor is fun, and we get to watch him work through a lot of bad advice and methodologies.
A lot of similarities can be drawn between Carell here and Carell in Crazy, Stupid Love, and rightfully so. Both films use romance and sex to sell a solid film, while also relying on great comedic highs and lows. I value The 40 Year Old Virgin a bit more, but that’s just because it’s been with me longer.
In the end, Andy’s journey takes him somewhere that we all can identify with — a place where we come clean, where we embrace who we are, and let the world know. Thankfully, Andy is rewarded for this — and in turn the audience is, as well.
A Cast of Characters
Matching the writing in this film are memorable performances from the cast. The main roles I’ve mentioned, excluding Romany Malco who plays a very comedic, likable scumbag who grows into maturity from his own interactions with Andy (Carell). But beyond that, even the small roles (which now feel like purposeful cameos) are memorable. There’s a Jonah Hill moment that always makes me laugh, because it’s just so damn funny — and so damn Jonah Hill.
Like I said, there are some issues. The cinematography is rather plain and the grainy film stock and low contrast, flat color pallet make it appear a few years older than it actually is. There are some comedic bits that just don’t work as well anymore. Hey, that’s a lot of gay jokes — but at least they stay at the level of “you know how I know you’re gay” and “I have friends who have sex with men — in prison.” But it is a stark reminder that in 2005, the concept of gayness still had mainstream comedic appeal, where in 2018 it’s more of just a personality trait.
But in the end, The 40 Year Old Virgin toes the line that separates tasteful emotional story and trashy sex comedy. The result is that we have a memorable, quotable film that can make you laugh even when you’re not watching it. My personal suggestion is to find a copy of this film with the extended cut, as well as the special features. There are so many moments to digest after you see the film, and so many funny lines that never even made it into the film.