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Photograph by Suzanne Hanover

Age Discrimination: Forty-year-old virgin Steve Carell tries to score with Elizabeth Banks.

Laid Aid

Steve Carell learns to love in irreverent, funny but uneven guy movie

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

ALTHOUGH The Daily Show seems like one of the only places to get true and hard-nosed journalism, it's sometimes difficult to accept that it is not actually a news show, that people like Steve Carell are not actually journalists—just actors and comedians playing journalists. So when Carell turns up playing a vapid, stuck-in-a-rut geek who, at age 40, has never had sex, it helps to remember that this is not necessarily a step down. And it definitely helps that The 40 Year-Old Virgin is a surprisingly funny, if disposable, movie.

Carell (Anchorman, Bewitched) appears in his first lead role as Andy Stitzer, a guy who works in the repair cage at an L.A. electronics chain store. His home is decorated with tons of supergeek horror, comic book and D&D paraphernalia—most of them in their original packaging, so as not to tamper with their value as collector's items. For final proof that this guy is unfamiliar with the world of romance and girls, he has a poster of the 1980s glitzy arena-rock group Asia on his wall—framed. After quick, inane banter with his elderly upstairs neighbors, the old gent remarks, "That boy needs to get laid."

When his co-workers, David (Paul Rudd, Clueless), Jay (Romany Malco, TV's Weeds) and Cal (Seth Rogen, TV's Freaks and Geeks), learn of Andy's condition, they do not laugh. Rather, they pool their collected wisdom and experience to get him laid. Some of the boys' subsequent ideas, like the old "hiring a hooker who turns out to be a transvestite" gimmick, inspire yawns. But the movie's other ploys work in weird ways. Acting on advice to ask women lots of questions, Andy approaches an adorable bookstore worker (Elizabeth Banks, Seabiscuit) and, after a weird dialogue, gains her freakish admiration.

Andy eventually throws a monkey wrench in his friends' plans when he conveniently meets Trish (Catherine Keener, Being John Malkovich), a single mom who runs a "We Sell Your Stuff on eBay" store. In truth, as potent and likable as Keener is onscreen, her presence slows the film down. Like Wedding Crashers, the film is funniest during its irreverent setup. As soon as these carefree playboys find true love, their stories become more earnest and thereby less humorous. Thus follows the usual misunderstanding and/or breakup scenes and a few racing-through-traffic sequences, but thankfully, the film winds up with something borrowed loosely from the Broadway play Hair that should not be missed.

Despite its misguided lurches into plot development, The 40 Year-Old Virgin eventually succeeds because it understands how men's minds work. Men tend to think about sex all the time, but we really understand very little and we're easily distracted. Maybe all women are startling to men. Any journalist, real or pretend, could tell you that that's old news, but it still makes for a good laugh.

The 40 Year-Old Virgin (R, 115 min.), directed by Judd Apatow, written by Judd Apatow and Steve Carell, photographed by Jack N. Green and starring Steve Carell, Catherine Keener and Paul Rudd, opens Friday at selected theaters.

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From the August 17-23, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2005 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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