Published Sep 01, 2005The first impression you get when you meet Andy Stitzer (played by Steve Carell) is "thank god I am not this guy." Judd Apatow's (Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared creator, Anchorman producer) directorial debut leaves little to the imagination with its frank title, but Carell effortlessly carries his "pure" character beyond the pathetic, inexperienced loser you expect to watch for two hours. He proved his worth as the dip-shit weatherman in Anchorman, and in Virgin, Carell seals his stardom like pal Will Ferrell did in Elf.
Andy is a 40-year-old man working in an electronics shop who lives by himself (surprisingly not with his folks), but owns every action figure imaginable and framed posters of Asia - the band - and magician Doug Henning. After work one day, he accidentally lets it slip to his co-workers (Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen and Romany Malco) during a poker game that he is in fact a virgin. Upon his revelation, the new pals immediately set out to pop his cherry in a number of scenarios that go awry in some flaccid-inducing ways (picking up a blindingly drunk woman and best of all, a shockingly painful chest waxing scene that was apparently 100-percent real footage of Carell being tortured). When the experienced Trish (Catherine Keener) enters his store and world, he becomes smitten and looks to her for his deflowering and a possible future.
The film works largely in part due to Apatow and Carell's (the film's writers) consideration for all of the characters involved in Andy's shortcoming. Upon introduction, Andy is a homebody who has never entered the world of sexuality after enduring some horrific experiences earlier in life. He has support in his "friends" - which isn't always beneficial - but each of them turn out to have even deeper and more disturbing issues than Andy's. It's the role of Trish though, that brings Virgin down to earth and prevents Andy from being the biggest joke of the film. Instead, their relationship brings a cunning romance into the film that is important to the lead character's growth and the film's evolution beyond penis and gay jokes.
Many viewers will expect Virgin to be another entry into the "frat pack" canon and it's clear why - the actors, writers, producers, comedic style, etc. - but this film has much more than Old School, Anchorman or The Wedding Crashers. Those films each played out like one long, bawdy, but extremely funny joke. Apatow's film though has three things that set it apart: a real story, purpose and heart. Anyone familiar with his television work will not only pinpoint actors from his two short-lived series but also his talent at writing a joke that has both a sense of timing and a certain wistful irony.
Apatow has fluently made the transition from celebrated TV director to film in his first try; and he makes it look easy. And wait for the ending and stay for the credits because it's an unexpected treasure that will leave you singing all the way home. (Universal)