The 40 Year-Old Virgin

Beyond just middle-aged dating.

Being a virgin was best for Christ's mother, but losing virginity is a right of passage for most American males. For Steve Carell's Andy Stitzer it's a nightmare he has avoided for 40 years. He's a reluctant virgin traumatized by more than one aggressive girl in his youth, but his buddies think his time has come. Thus begins a tortuous journey to love and maturity for an electronics store salesman whose idea of a good time is making a perfect omelet or rearranging his perfectly stored action figures.

I thought "Must Love Dogs" with John Cusack and Diane Lane was the best romantic comedy of the summer, and more than I hoped for. But Virgin goes beyond just middle-aged dating; it explores the value of holding out for a higher level of meaning when engaging in sex;, and it satirizes the social norms that foster promiscuity. Ultimately it settles on the right mixture represented by Carell and his business neighbor, Catherine Keener's Trish.

Along the way is some insightful writing, often delivered with understated irony, by Andy and his two buddies. For instance, those who haunt video stores for offbeat memories know immediately that when Andy is counseled to be tough like David Caruso in Jade, the writers are geeky and knowing. The setup in the waxing salon, with Carell actually having his chest hair torn off and bleeding, reminds me of the outtakes of Peter Sellers as Chauncey Gardner in "Being There," where he keeps trying to swear but ends up blowing the scene because he finds himself amusingly out of place. Andy swears at each rip of the adhesive, each time funnier than the last.

This is my first experience with Steve Carell; I hope it won't be the last. The same can be said of first time director Judd Apatow. Both are not virgins when it comes to delivering sophisticated comedy.