Judd Apatow’s comedy from 2005, which marks its 15th anniversary this week, is known as one of the funnier and more charming comedies of the new century. But it’s also notable as the start of many things that we now take for granted.
It marked the beginning of Apatow’s career as a major director, and also the start of a formula: immature adult male learns to grow up and make himself ready for a monogamous relationship. A formula which the director would repeat for the next decade and a half, most recently with Pete Davidson and The King of Staten Island.
The 40-Year-Old Virgin marked the start of Steve Carell’s run as a movie star, arriving just a couple of months after the debut of The Office, and just ahead of that show’s dramatic improvement in its second season. It was also Seth Rogen’s first major movie role, and featured early prominent appearances by the likes of Romany Malco, Mindy Kaling, Elizabeth Banks, Jonah Hill, Kevin Hart, and Kat Dennings.
The 40-Year-Old Virgin marked the start of Steve Carell’s run as a movie star, arriving just a couple of months after the debut of The Office
The film, unlike the shockingly mean-spirited Wedding Crashers, from a few weeks prior, brought some heart and empathy to its premise.
Based on a sketch created by Carell early in his career, The 40-Year-Old Virgin starred the actor as Andy, an electronics store employee in Los Angeles who somehow managed to reach his 40s without ever having sex. When his coworkers (Rogen, Malco, and Paul Rudd) discover his predicament, they try to help him get over the hump, as it were, with mixed results.
Eventually, he meets Trish (Catherine Keener), with whom he has a tentative courtship, which ultimately leads to success – and that great, great final musical number, set to the Hair number “The Age of Aquarius”:
The film had a great poster. It sported some hilarious, memorable lines, like “be David Caruso in Jade.” And it had some wonderful scenes, like the sex-ed class:
The film is far from perfect though, and not everything holds up.
Like most Apatow comedies that followed, it’s longer than it needs to be, with a two-hour running time. And like all of the rest, it combines plentiful sex jokes with a view of sexual morality that’s surprisingly conservative, including the characters delaying sex until after marriage.
There’s one scene of pretty blatant transphobia that looks absolutely terrible to modern eyes and ears, and a scene in which Carell lapses into Black slang upon meeting the Malco character’s girlfriend isn’t much better. But I will defend the “know how I know you’re gay?” scene, as more of a commentary on homophobia than an example of it.
So many dude-centric romantic comedies are about guys who are presented as nice guys but, upon further inspection, aren’t really; there’s an example even in this same movie, with Paul Rudd’s character and his stalkerish attitude towards his ex-girlfriend.
But Steve Carell’s Andy is a rare protagonist in this type of movie who’s actually a decent individual. His story was the first, and best, of Judd Apatow’s films about romance and delayed maturity.