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Review: Hilarious '40-Year-Old Virgin'

Steve Carell gives star-making performance in great comedy

By Paul Clinton

Steve Carell wonders if there's someone for him in "The 40-Year-Old Virgin."


Steve Carell

(CNN) -- Steve Carell. Remember that name. If you haven't heard of him before, you certainly will now.

A former member of Chicago's Second City, Carell has been featured on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" and starred in the American version of the British TV comedy "The Office." He also gave a show-stopping performance in "Bruce Almighty." Now he brings down the house in his first feature-film leading role, that of the main character, Andy Stitzer, in "The 40-Year-Old Virgin."

Stitzer is a shy, mild-mannered man who works in a large electronics store. Carell's face shines with sublime innocence as he goes about being an inventory clerk by day and a reclusive collector of superhero and film memorabilia at night.

When three co-workers -- David (Paul Rudd), Jay (Romany Malco) and Cal (Seth Rogen) -- need a fourth player for a poker game, they reluctantly rope him in. While trading raunchy stories about sexual exploits it becomes abundantly clear that Andy -- at the age of 40 -- is still a virgin.

Finding this situation an insult to males everywhere, they decide to make it their mission to get Andy some action. Any living, breathing female will do the trick.

For Andy, this leads to some terrifying encounters.

He meets with Beth (Elizabeth Banks), an over-sexed vixen who scares him to death. He takes part in a frightening night of speed-dating. And then he goes out with a drunken woman, Nicky (Leslie Mann), who nearly kills him while driving him home and then throws up in his face.

Is it any wonder he starts losing hope?

Then a chance encounter with Trish (Catherine Keener), who sells memorabilia through eBay, changes his life. She's a single mother who is charmed by Andy's sweet nature and -- to Andy's pleasure -- wants to take things slow in the bedroom department. Of course, eventually push comes to shove and, naturally, Andy panics.

Good nature

"The 40 Year-Old Virgin" is, hands down, the best comedy of the summer.

Yes, the humor is R-rated and adolescent -- there are jokes involving erections, getting chest hair waxed off, and a hilarious scene in which Andy tries unsuccessfully to solve the mystery of putting on a condom. But the good-natured tone of the film and the wonderful comedic talents of the entire cast -- especially Carell -- make the gross-out moments charmingly relatable.

"The 40-Year-Old Virgin" marks the directorial debut of Judd Apatow, who also co-wrote the script with Carell. Apatow has a sterling TV resume, having worked as a producer on "The Larry Sanders Show" and a writer on "Freaks and Geeks," and his comedic credentials shine through in every scene. He knows how to keep the comedy real and doesn't just play it for cheap laughs.

40-Year-Old Virgin
Carel's character is goaded into a series of adventures by his co-workers, played by Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd and Romany Malco.

Andy's three buddies are all well cast, especially the innocent-seeming Paul Rudd. The three guys could have easily been dismissed as misogynistic jerks, but the excellent script exposes them as being just as terrified of intimacy as Andy is. They do a little growing up as well.

Keener adds class to any film in which she appears; she's a treat. And it's so refreshing to see two romantic leads who are old enough to remember the days before cell phones and ATMs.

There's no sense saving yourself for another movie. Go see "The 40-Year-Old Virgin."

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