The Baxter

Not a promising non-Baxter

A "Baxter" is a nerd who never gets the girl because he is socially inept, and there are an endless number of cool guys ready to take his girl. You don't remember that name invoked in the recent 40 Year-Old Virgin; well, it should have been because Steve Carell's Andy not only a virgin but also a Baxter until his friends teach him a thing or two about women.

Michael Showalter's a certifiable comic, proven in his successes with the comedy troops Stella and The State. His Baxter, Elliot Sherman, makes Carell's Andy look like Colin Farrell: He has a large nose, small mouth, and self-conscious voice that make him hard to see as an eventual non-Baxter. But some girls do love him, in particular the Naomi Watts look alike, Elizabeth Banks as Caroline, a preppy energy bunny engaged to Sherman, and Michelle Williams's Cecil, a wholesome temporary secretary in love with him.

As in most films that play with the concept of the loser destined to become a winner, it's difficult to believe these two attractive women could fall for a Baxter. So I become increasingly irritated by the glut of improbabilities.

Yet, there are endearing moments, for instance, when Elliot and Cecil run around his apartment trying to avoid being detected by Caroline. This scene is more like a screwball comedy, and maybe that's why it all works here and not elsewhere. That Showalter is lampooning that genre is no excuse for the film to be slow, trite, and boring itself.

Or maybe Showalter just doesn't have Steve Carell's charm and talent. In that case, director Showalter should have hired a virgin experienced at being a nerd.