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 by Universal in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation quality isn't bad, but unfortunately, it's not up to the kind of quality that most of the studio's recent theatrical releases on DVD. Sharpness and detail are generally fine, as the picture appeared crisp for the most part, but slightly softer in some of the wide shots.
Unfortunately, noticable edge enhancement appears in several scenes, as does some shimmering and a few trace instances of pixelation. On a positive note, no print flaws are seen, but the other issues are somewhat distracting on occasion.
Colors remain bright and vivid, with nice saturation and no smearing. Flesh tones were also accurate. Overall, this presentation was just adequate and not quite up to what I'd expect from a recent theatrical release. The presentation is the same here as the prior "Unrated" release.
SOUND: "40-Year-Old Virgin" is presented by Universal in Dolby Digital 5.1. The presentation is, as one might expect, completely dialogue-driven. Audio quality was fine, as dialogue and the tunes on the soundtrack seemed crisp and well-recorded.
EXTRAS: 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.
In the box is also a ticket (up to $7.50) to see "Knocked Up" (the trailer for it is included on the first DVD), the upcoming movie from director Judd Apatow that also stars "40-Year-Old Virgin" star Seth Rogen.
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 DVD offers average video quality, fine audio and a very nice collection of supplements. Those who own the previous release don't really need to upgrade here, but those who don't already own the film on DVD and are looking to should pick up this release instead of the prior edition.
The Film B+