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Carrell's Virgin a delightful surprise

By Lady Liberty
web posted August 22, 2005

The 40 Year-Old Virgin

** out of ****

The 40 Year-Old VirginLet me be frank, here: The posters for this movie didn't excite me in the least. In fact, the name of the movie alone was enough for me to consider it a "must miss." But then I heard some early positive word about the movie and, being more in the mood for a comedy than anything else at a particular late night showing, I thought I'd risk it. What a delightful surprise The 40 Year-Old Virgin turned out to be!

Andy Stitzer (Steve Carell) is a relatively ordinary guy as far as shy, nerdy types go. He's in charge of the stock department at a large electronics store in a shopping mall, and on his own time, he collects classic action figures. Oh, and then, of course, there's the fact that he's 40 and has never had sex. His co-workers at the store think he's a bit odd and more than a little dull, but don't otherwise think about him too much until they end up a man short for a poker game. Andy's fellow stockman, Cal (Seth Rogen) warns the other guys that Andy's so quiet and odd that he's probably a serial killer, but they decide to take a chance and invite him to play.

Andy's a nice enough guy, and he makes every effort to fit in to the group. But when the conversation degenerates into a series of "the kinkiest sex I've ever had" stories, Andy has to think fast to make up a story of his own. Jay (Romany Malco) is a playboy with plenty to tell; David (Paul Rudd) is still reminiscing about a girl with whom he broke up two years ago. Cal has stories, too. But Andy? Well, he does his best to fake it, but when he mentions a woman's breast having felt like a bag of sand, the jig is up.

Although Jay, David, and Cal are shocked, they don't condemn Andy. Instead, they make up their minds then and their to put an end to Andy's long dry spell. With well-meaning advice coming from all sides — and an offer not to be believed from his boss — Andy is confused, but willing to go along. The guys take him to a bar where Jay tells him that drunk women are exactly the kind of woman he wants. Andy promptly meets a very drunk woman named Nicky (Leslie Mann), but things don't go quite as he might have hoped. Then Cal introduces Andy to a pretty bookstore clerk named Beth (Elizabeth Banks), and things start looking up.

The guys decide that Andy could use a little self improvement, too, ignoring completely the fact that they've each got troubles of their own. But Andy is distracted from their efforts when he meets Trish (Catherine Keener), a happy-go-lucky owner of an eBay store across the street from the mall. Despite his interest in Trish, and even with all of the help and encouragement he's getting from his friends, Andy is having a difficult time working up the courage to ask Trish out. And even if he does date Trish — or Beth, or Nicky, or Gina — will he have the nerve to confess his big secret?

Steve Carell is a hoot in the title role. Andy is sweet and innocent, but he's also eternally optimistic and a genuinely nice guy. Carell created the character as a short skit some years ago, but had the opportunity to flesh it out when he began working with Judd Apatow (one of the men responsible for the wonderful and woefully underappreciated television show Freaks & Geeks). The two co-wrote the script, and Apatow directed while Carell starred. If any one of the aspects had been changed — perhaps Andy is too weird, the script is too cruel or humiliating, or the director goes for cheap laughs — The 40 Year-Old Virgin would have been the movie I expected it to be. Fortunately, the sensitive treatment given to Andy and his circumstances allows the movie to be funny without being overly crude or vicious.

Carell couldn't have been the Andy that he was without a very good supporting cast, and he's got one here. Paul Rudd is adorable; Romany Malco brings to life the kind of guy you just want to slap, but can't because he's so charming. Seth Rogen isn't afraid to be an oddball, but at the same time he knows his niche and is proud of it. Meanwhile, Elizabeth Banks is very good as the oversexed Beth. Catherine Keener offers perhaps the most understated performance. She's good, but could have been better...

Some years ago, There's Something About Mary showed audiences that crude sexual humor could be well done and very, very funny. The 40 Year-Old Virgin is something like that, though sweeter and a bit more staid. Still, the movie has its moments, and some of them are downright hysterical (the hair waxing scene is not to be missed, and it's all the more funny when you realize it was unrehearsed and done for real because Carell wanted his reactions to be authentic). If you're in the mood for some laughs, and don't mind a few lessons along with way, there's nothing else that will fill the bill quite like The 40 Year-Old Virgin.

FAMILY SUITABILITY: The 40 Year-Old Virgin is rated R for "pervasive sexual content, language, and some drug use." The sexual content is, indeed, pervasive, and some of that pervasiveness is downright graphic. This is not a movie for kids! Older teens, though (say age 16 and up or so), should enjoy the film and might actually learn something from it; adults who aren't afraid to admit that they find some moderately crude situations funny will also find plenty to laugh about. I laughed out loud more than a few times, and enjoyed the film from start to finish (the end, by the way, is a particular treat).

Red Eye

** 1/2 out of ****

Red EyeWhen I first saw a little horror movie called A Nightmare on Elm Street, I thought it was one of the most original and truly terrifying movies I'd ever seen. The truth of the matter is that I still do. The man behind that film was Wes Craven (don't blame him for the sequels with which he wasn't involved). Craven went on to create the Scream franchise and establish a solid reputation in Hollywood. It was that reputation that led me to think that Craven's latest offering was a horror film. It isn't. But there are monsters to be found in psychological thrillers, too...

Lisa Reisert (Rachel McAdams), a hotel guest manager in Miami, is on her way back home after attending a funeral in Dallas. When she arrives at the airport just in time to catch her late night flight, she learns it's been delayed. During the delay, Lisa chats briefly with several of her fellow passengers including the handsome Jackson Ripner (Cillian Murphy). While they wait, Lisa and Jackson enjoy a drink together at an airport bar. Almost too soon, their flight is called and they hurriedly wish each other a safe journey and go their separate ways to deal with last minute phone calls and other preparations.

When Lisa finally boards the plane, she's pleasantly surprised to find that the seat next to her is occupied by Jackson. Once the flight takes off, though, her relationship with Jackson changes abruptly and dramatically when he informs her that she must do as he says or her father will die. Lisa's options are limited: She can do as Jackson says, she can refuse and risk her father's life, or she can try to escape him and his plans. But she's trapped in the seat next to him at 30,000 feet, and there are virtually no options that won't result in somebody dying.

Meanwhile, in Lisa's absence, a new hotel employee named Cynthia (Jayma Mays) is having troubles of her own with rude guests and VIP schedule changes. One of those VIPs is the Deputy Director of the Department of Homeland Security. Charles Keefe (Jack Scalia) is a regular guest at the hotel, and he knows Lisa. What he doesn't know is that she's being coerced into doing things that could jeopardize far more than merely her father's or her own life even as he and his family check in for another stay...

Rachel McAdams has proved herself a formidable — and versatile — talent with movies in recent months including the tearjerker The Notebook and the very funny comedy The Wedding Crashers. Now she shows she's a fine dramatic actress as well. Meanwhile, Cillian Murphy is also no stranger to the big screen of late. As the creepy Scarecrow in Batman Begins, he's definitely a bad guy. In Red Eye, he's quieter and more understated, but somehow even more menacing. And he manages to do that despite being a very "pretty" face! Jayma Mays is fine as the harried hotel employee, and both Brian Cox (who plays Lisa's father, Joe) and Jack Scalia are all right. But supporting roles in this film are so limited that even credited roles are little more than extras. McAdams and Murphy carry the show, and they do it with apparently little effort.

Director Wes Craven has always been good at jacking up the suspense, and he does a fine job here. Much of the action takes place aboard a crowded airplane meaning there's limited space for anything to happen. And yet you can't take your eyes off the main characters, and you'll tense in your seat as you wonder what will happen next. (The realism of the plane doesn't hurt — it's crowded, noisy, and bumpy, just like the real thing). Once the plane lands, the action can expand and it does, but it gets no less intense along the way. Red Eye isn't destined to be the classic that Elm Street became, but that doesn't mean it's not worth the price of admission.

POLITICAL NOTES: There's scant mention of increased airport security in the film, though it is, at least, acknowledged. The real political point here is made in an excerpt of a speech by the Deputy Director shown via a clip on some TV news. The words of the speech are a little surprising coming from Hollywood, and I have to confess I was in agreement with what was said...

FAMILY SUITABILITY: Red Eye is rated PG-13 for "some intense sequences of violence and language." That rating is probably about right. Small children won't understand much of what's happening, and the level of intensity (Lisa is terrified, and it shows) will likely be too much for them. Older kids, though, and adults who enjoy the occasional thriller will find plenty to keep them interested here.

Lady Liberty is a graphic designer and pro-freedom activist currently residing in the Midwest. More of her writings and other political and educational information is available on her web site, Lady Liberty's Constitution Clearing House, at http://www.ladylibrty.com. E-mail Lady Liberty at ladylibrty@ladylibrty.com.


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