With Carell, how could 'Virgin' be anything but funny?

Critics' Picks : New Dvds

December 11, 2005|By CHRIS KALTENBACH

THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN / / Universal Studios Home Entertainment / / $29.98

Hands-down the funniest movie of 2005, The 40-Year-Old Virgin may also be the sweetest sex comedy ever.

This I-bet-you-can't-not-laugh tale of Andy Stitzer (Steve Carell), an obsessive-compulsive electronics store clerk who is just what the title suggests, follows the efforts of his three lunk-headed friends to get for him the required experience. The whole premise sounds raunchy, and it is, with language you wouldn't want your mother (or teenage daughter) to hear. But it's also outrageously funny. Unfortunately, we can't print most of the jokes (a lot of them improvised by the various cast members, if the DVD commentary is to be believed) in a family newspaper; you'll just have to take my word for it.

What keeps the film from devolving into just another series of sex jokes is the essential good nature of it all. Carell, almost always the best part of anything he's in (he stole Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy from Will Ferrell), plays Andy as desperate and embarrassed, but not stupid or moronic. Catherine Keener, as the eBay-store owner (her shop only sells through online auctions) who finds him attractive and appealing for all the best reasons, has never been more beguiling. And as the most misguided Greek chorus ever, Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen and Romany Malco are as clueless about women and dating as Andy, only they're too deluded with visions of frat-boy manliness to admit it.

Writer-director Judd Apatow, who also penned the forthcoming Fun With Dick and Jane and was one of the creative forces behind TV's Freaks & Geeks, pulls off a laudable tightrope walk with the material. In the end, Virgin isn't so much about sex as about how stupid we all act when the subject comes up. Besides being fearless and funny, it's also strangely ennobling -- a combination few other comedies can match.

Special features: Virgin arrives in stores in both rated and unrated versions. The latter grafts on 17 minutes of additional footage, while the former includes a 1970s sex-education film (guess it's not racy enough for the unrated set). Both versions include extended riffs on some of the film's funniest bits, including a game of one-upmanship between Rogen and Rudd that's come to be known as the "You Know How I Know You're Gay" routine, and a speed-dating convention in which the four buds find themselves paired with all manner of prospective mates.

ALSO ANTICIPATED

RAY HARRYHAUSEN GIFT SET / / Sony / / $49.95

Ray Harryhausen, a legend in the field of stop-motion animation (who apprenticed under another legend, Willis O'Brien, the man behind the original King Kong), is showcased in this three-disc set. Included is 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957), starring a monster from Venus that wreaks havoc on Italy; Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956), in which Washington takes a serious beating from invading aliens; and It Came From Beneath the Sea (1955), featuring a giant octopus manhandling the Golden Gate Bridge.

[CHRIS KALTENBACH]

chris.kaltenbach@baltsun.com

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