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The 40 Year Old Virgin

(2005) *** R
115 min. Universal Pictures. Director: Judd Apatow. Cast: Steve Carell, Catherine Keener, Paul Rudd, Romany Malco, Seth Rogen.

Perhaps you know the type. Slavishly devoted to his hobbies and just a little too intense about his crappy job, he doesn't get out much. You've never seen inside his bachelor's pad, but you have a pretty good idea that it's crammed with action figures and decorated with strange posters (Nosferatu, Doug Henning, etc.). Andy Stitzer is just such a man, described by a co-worker as "a pretty nice guy and all, but I'm pretty sure he's a serial murderer."

Andy fits the profile of the 40-year-old virgin, as imagined by co-writers Steve Carell and Judd Apatow (Freaks and Geeks): he devotes his pent-up energy to working at a consumer electronics store and collecting every kind of fantasy figurine on the market. When he lets slip to his workmates that he's a virgin, Andy (Carell) suddenly becomes their best friend. Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen, and Romany Malco play Andy's compatriots, who make it their mission to get him laid, and Catherine Keener plays the single mom who works at "We Sell Your Stuff on eBay" and piques Andy's interest (incidentally, eBay-assisting storefronts are for real...only in America).

Plenty of awkward nightclubbing, dating, and dubious advice ensues, like Rogen's suggestion "Be kind of a dick. Be David Caruso in Jade." Pop references like that won't have a long shelf life, and some of the humor is unnecessarily dumb, but The 40 Year Old Virgin is awfully funny all the same. Carell and director Apatow successfully satirize guy culture and affirm love before sex, some consolation for the parents whose kids will definitely be sneaking in.

If you've been paying attention to the comedy scene, you'll have noticed Carell's rise from Daily Show correspondent to supporting player in movies (he was the low-IQ weatherman in Anchorman, produced by Apatow) and, now, to leading man. Carell has the chops to take his comedy to "11" (as he did, desperately, in Bewitched earlier this summer), but Andy is a subtler creation, limned with just the right amount of edge. With friends and circumstance testing his limits, Andy is a man ready to...pop.

While Apatow indulges the freedom of his R-rating with situations and imagery a bit too randy for the sexually skittish environs of the PG-13 (bedroom scenes, a porn collection, an apple bong, and liberal swearing), audiences probably won't notice the long running time until they've reached the other side of the pricelessly exclamatory ending. Despite a certain sexual (ahem) tunnel-vision, the story functions as much on a strong rooting interest and nice chemistry between the loveable Carell and Keener. The 40 Year Old Virgin manages to be sweet and raunchy in equal measure, which I suppose makes it the aged-to-perfection version of American Pie.

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