I don't think anyone was expecting major success out of "The 40-Year-Old Virgin", a $25m comedy from director Judd Apatow and actor Steve Carrell. The picture then went and surprised everyone by becoming one of the biggest hits of the Summer, ending up grossing over $100m and turning Carrell into a leading man.
The film stars Carrell has Andy Stitzer, a backroom employee at a Circuit City clone. Andy is shy, keeps to himself (his co-workers think he's weird at first) and his idea of an interesting Saturday afternoon is making an egg salad sandwich, playing video games or going through the action figures that fill his apartment. At a poker game, Andy's co-workers see through his "stories" and realize that he's a virgin.
Andy realizes that he'll never hear the end of it, and the next day, his co-workers start their quest to get Andy a woman. Although his workers take him to the usual spots, Andy stumbles into a possible relationship with a small business owner across the street (Catherine Keener). However, whenever trying to be more intimate with her, he keeps freezing up. Although Keener doesn't exactly seem like the perfect choice for an R-rated comedy, I can't imagine anyone else in the role. She and Carrell have a nice, understated chemistry with one another and their scenes are surprisingly sweet.
The rest of the movie is the same way: director/writer Apatow and co-writer Carrell have managed to make a movie that balances sweetness, crudeness and intelligence better than any movie in recent years. This could easily have been a comedy solely out to humiliate the main character (see most Ben Stiller films for examples of this kind of movie), but instead the movie is rooting for the character, and as a result, the audience does, as well. The script creates some very funny showcase sequences (Carrell getting his chest waxed - for real - and cursing out the waxer) and throwaway bits (references to "Liar, Liar", "Everybody Loves Raymond" and "Beautician and the Beast".)
Carrell is also a reason why the flick works as well as it does. No one can approach Carrell when it comes to awkward pauses and social ineptness, whether shy like he is here or arrogant like his in TV's "The Office". He's surrounded by a first-rate supporting cast, including the superb trio of Romany Malco, Paul Rudd ("Anchorman") and Seth Rogen (Apatow's "Undeclared") as Andy's messed-up, yet well-meaning and very funny co-workers, as well as Elizabeth Banks as a flirty bookstore worker who catches Andy's eye.
While funny, "40-Year-Old Virgin" is not without some issues. At 132 minutes in this unrated edition (17 minutes longer, including some additional nudity and an assortment of other brief bits) definitely starts to seem long after a while, and, despite the added bonus of the longer cut, 20-25 minutes less could have improved the pacing. While the film is never dull (and the ending's very sweet), 120 minutes for this story would be unnecessary. Length issues aside, "40-Year-Old Virgin" still succeeds as a crude, but smart comedy with a lot of heart and a great effort from Carrell.
VIDEO "40-Year-Old Virgin" is presented in 1.85:1 (1080p/AVC). Presentation quality is an improvement over the DVD in terms of sharpness and detail to the image. While the picture is not vastly crisper (and some scenes look a tad soft, although whether that's by intent or not is a little questionable here), the picture does show improved fine detail and clarity overall.
Still, while the picture does look more well-defined, there's still more than a few issues to be found on this presentation. One particular disappointment is the fact that edge enhancement is noticeable in several scenes. Some slight traces of pixelation are also spotted, as are a couple of specks and marks on the elements. Colors generally looked a tad warmer on this Blu-Ray release than they did on the DVD. Overall, this presentation does improve some aspects of the DVD presentation, but it's not a major leap over the DVD.
SOUND: "40-Year-Old Virgin" is presented by Universal in DTS-HD MA 5.1. The film's sound design is dialogue-driven and about as basic as it gets - surrounds are barely used. I wasn't expecting an aggressive presentation from a film like this, but the sound design seems basic even for a comedy. Audio quality was fine, as dialogue and the tunes on the soundtrack seemed crisp and well-recorded. The DTS-HD presentation offered a slightly crisper and clearer presentation, but the differences were minimal.
EXTRAS: The video extras are in SD.
Writer/director Judd Apatow, co-writer/actor Carrell and most of the main cast provide commentary for the feature. The group all seem to be having a lot of fun joking about making the picture, and provide some fun behind-the-scenes stories. Essentially, just the kind of discussion one would expect for the film - not much in the way of technical details at all, but a lot of fun.
We also get 12 minutes of some pretty amusing (yet pretty unnecessary) deleted scenes, with optional commentary. We also get alternate, longer versions of the "You Know How I Know You're Gay?", with commentary. Also included are: "Waxing Doc" (with some alternate waxing yells from Carrell), "Date-A-Palooza" is a longer version of the speed dating sequence, "Line-o-Rama" offers alternate takes, "My Date With Stormy" has producer/actor Seth Rogen interviewing adult actress Stormy Daniels (the girl in Andy's fantasies" and finally, we get a reel of very funny outtakes. All of the above extras have been carried over here from the original Special Edition.
The first of the new features on this release is "Judd's Video Diaries", which are a series of short featurettes that follow director Judd Apatow (who notes that he's burnt-out after the first day) on-set as he summarizes the day's activities. We don't see much in the way of production footage, but Apatow is funny enough that his comments are amusing and informative enough that it's worthwhile viewing.
We also get about 20 minutes (the majority of which is footage of Carrell at the poker table and during the waxing scene) of raw footage, showing alternate takes, different reactions and more. While this is probably not a feature that many are going to come back to after viewing it once, there's some funny moments here. Also included are 5 minutes of rehearsal footage and audition tapes (Jonah Hill, Elizabeth Banks, Romany Malko, Jane Lynch, Shelly Malil, Gerry Bedknob and Jazzmun.) As for featurettes, we get a Cinemax "Final Cut" promotional piece and Comedy Central roundtable. Both have Apatow and the cast chatting about the movie, but the Comedy Central piece is longer, more relaxed, funnier and less "promotional." Finally, we get the oddest (although it's pretty amusing) feature: a 70's Sex-Ed film.
Also, since it's Universal, it's no surprise that we get another "U-Control" picture-in-picture features.
Final Thoughts:"40-Year-Old Virgin" goes too long for what it is, but the movie remains a very funny comedy with a lot of heart, as well as a terrific performance from Steve Carrell. The Blu-Ray edition offers mildly improved video and slightly improved audio. This Blu-Ray doesn't offer enough of an upgrade over the DVD to recommend upgrading for those who have the prior DVD release. However, Blu-Ray owners who do not have the prior DVD should consider picking this edition up.
The Film B+