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The 40-Year-Old Virgin (Blu-ray)
Universal Studios Home Entertainment / 2005 / 133 Minutes / Unrated
Street Date: September 30, 2008
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Reviewed by High-Def Digest Staff
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Non-format specific portions of this review also appear in the HD DVD review of ‘The 40-Year-Old Virgin.’
Over the last few years, Steve Carell has transformed himself from an amusing correspondent on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” to a legitimate star of film and television. With critically-acclaimed performances in films like ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ and an unforgettable transformation into Dunder Mifflin’s Michael Scott on “The Office,” it’s hard to remember a time when he was less of a household name. But when ‘The 40-Year-Old Virgin’ first hit theaters in 2005, Carell was just a reliable supporting actor who had the good fortune to appear in a series of high profile comedies like ‘Bruce Almighty’ and ‘Anchorman.’ No one could have predicted the sudden rise to stardom he would undergo after delivering an otherwise sweet performance in what most thought would be just another aimless sex comedy.
Andy Stitzer (Carell) is a shy, middle-aged man who works at an electronics superstore and spends his free time collecting action figures. When co-workers David (Paul Rudd), Jay (Romany Malco), and Cal (Seth Rogen) need an extra poker player for their weekly game, they invite the seemingly reclusive Andy along for the evening. He agrees, out of loneliness more than anything else, and quickly finds himself drowning in their world. Inadvertently revealing the biggest secret of his life -- that he’s still a virgin -- his newfound chums make it their mission to help Andy achieve what he deems the impossible. Sadly, Andy doesn’t function well in their world of speed-dating, bar hopping, and fast talking women. Instead, he finds himself drawn to a troubled single mother named Trish (Catherine Keener) who runs a local ebay store.
What sets ‘The 40 Year Old Virgin’ apart from the genre crowd is a genuine display of heart. Andy isn’t just a sex-crazed loser, he’s a lonely soul who never learned to overcome his own personal insecurities. As much as his friends want our lovable protagonist to focus on getting laid, Andy is far more concerned with finding acceptance and companionship. On that note, I can’t imagine anyone pulling off the character’s uncertainties and self-doubt better than Carell, a master of nuance and subtle humor. Slight twitches, realistically tormented expressions, and a series of emotionally-defensive gestures make his portrayal of Andy sympathetic instead of pathetic. It becomes painfully clear that Andy may be the only one properly equipped to deal with women because his misadventures in the adult world have stripped him of the traits and views that have left his peers wallowing in cynicism.
This inherently truthful revelation injects the film with the sort of universal honesty that’s sorely lacking in other similarly-themed genre films. Sure, ‘The 40-Year-Old Virgin’ is still a hilarious, occasionally raunchy flick that will send you into fits of laughter, but it’s also something more. As such, the only potential issue with the film’s otherwise winning formula is its ever-present cringe factor. Like 'Meet the Parents,' much of the director Judd Apatow’s comedy is dependent upon a well-meaning character being put through a gauntlet of misunderstandings and uncomfortable situations. Regardless of the laughs, these sorts of films often make me so uncomfortable that there's a part of me that can't wait to get to the end so I can breathe a giant sigh of relief. If you're one of those people, you may find 'The 40 Year Old Virgin' tough to sit through at times.
Regardless, enduring any discomfort is well worth watching 'The 40 Year Old Virgin.' It’s both an extremely funny romp and a heartfelt riff on an aging, cliché-ridden genre. If you haven't seen this early Apatow classic, track down a copy and watch it as soon as possible.
(Note this Blu-ray edition includes the "Unrated" version of the film. A full seventeen minutes longer than the R-Rated theatrical edition, this cut adds a few extra jokes, exchanges, and adult situations.)
Like its previously released HD DVD counterpart, the Blu-ray edition of ‘The 40 Year Old Virgin' offers fans a visual upgrade from the standard-def DVD, but fails to pop like its better-encoded high-def brethren. In fact, while Universal’s 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer is well saturated and vivid at times, it often feels flat and dusty. Contrast and black levels are a mixed bag -- sometimes they're bright and deep, but at other times they make the picture feel downright murky. Compare scenes in Trish's ebay store to those involving her date with Andy at the Japanese Hibachi restaurant. As you'll see, the skintones are skewed green, the balloons aren’t three-dimensional or vibrant, and the dark corners of the room are poorly delineated. There are countless other examples of image inconsistency throughout the film, but the picture rarely leaps off the screen in the way I've come to expect with high definition.
Technically speaking, there aren't any distracting instances of noise, artifacting, banding, or grain, but the print itself is sprinkled with occasional marks and spots (a particular oddity for a newer film). Likewise, while the BD isn’t plagued by the mosquito noise, haloing, and heavy edge enhancement of the standard DVDs, its clean image still suffers from lingering edge enhancement. Don’t get me wrong, the disc’s increased resolution, improved fine detailing, and relatively reliable image kept me relatively happy as a fan of the film... I just wish it looked as good as other Apatow films available in high definition.
The Blu-ray edition of ’The 40-Year-Old Virgin’ may feature a DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track but, like the HD DVD, the limitations of the original sound design prevent it from providing a more consistent or memorable sonic experience. First, the good. Even though the film’s dialogue-driven design pulls the majority of the soundfield forward, voices are crisp, treble tones are stable, and the LFE channel rumbles in the brief moments it’s called upon. Conversations are distributed nicely across the front speakers, and the film’s restricted soundscape still boasts impressive dynamic range. Effects are generally authentic, interiors have convincing acoustics, and scenes set in apartments or confined spaces are actually involving.
Unfortunately, the entire film doesn't take place in a small room. As it stands, many of the on-screen locales sound more like stage sets rather than authentic environments. Scenes in the nightclub offer a perfect example of the mix’s lackluster ambience -- I'd even go as far as to compare the overall sound design to that of an SNL sketch. Worse still, non-vocal prioritization is weak and music is often pushed so far into the background that it fails to populate the world of the film. In short, this lossless mix is certainly serviceable, but it won’t turn any heads or give your surround system much of a workout.
’The 40-Year-Old Virgin’ is packed to the brim with special features -- some from the original DVD, some from the "Double Your Pleasure" 2-disc DVD release, and a PiP track exclusive to the Blu-ray and HD DVD versions. The biggest disappointments are that the material gets repetitive and all of the video content is presented in standard definition.
- Audio Commentary -- First up is a feature length commentary with director Judd Apatow, actor Steve Carell, and a number of other cast members. To its credit, there are so many people chatting at various moments that the track is never silent. At the same time, it also leads the track into some confusing moments when too many participants are talking at once. Apatow is engaging, but it's Carell who constantly steals the show. He never hams up the proceedings, but he has a biting sarcasm and humor that amiably burns everyone in the room. I would definitely point fans in the direction of this commentary as there's a lot of fun to be had.
- Judd’s Video Diaries (SD, 21 minutes) -- A collection of shorts that include lengthy and candid footage Apatow captured on a handheld camcorder during the shoot. But the best parts of these fly-on-the-wall mini-docs are the director’s brief interviews with the cast since it's clear that everyone is having a blast with the production.
- Deleted Scenes (SD, 18 minutes) – A collection of cuts from the original DVD and the more recent "Double Your Pleasure" release. While a few scenes only offer brief extensions, most are amusing and some are downright hilarious. Unfortunately, while several scenes feature commentary with Apatow and Rogen, both men tend to babble rather than actually discuss the merits or faults of the deletions.
- Raw Footage (SD, 19 minutes) -- Covering three scenes (including the infamous waxing shots), this infectiously funny footage is presented with no cuts or edits, exactly as it was captured on the day of shooting.
- Television Specials (SD, 34 minutes) -- The disc also includes episodes of Comedy Central’s “Reel Comedy Roundtable” and Cinemax’s “Final Cut.” Both specials are essentially EPK fluff, seeped in repetitive footage from the film. There are a few nice interview bits with Apatow, Carell, Rudd, Rogen, and Malco but, for the most part, the information they provide is hit upon elsewhere on the disc.
- Auditions (SD, 8 minutes) -- A series of audition tapes for Jonah Hill, Elizabeth Banks, Romany Malco, Shelley Malil, Jane Lynch, Gerry Bednob, and Jazzmun. Surprisingly, the best of the bunch is Gerry Bednob. Even in this audition, his rage is so readily apparent that Apatow is rolling with laughter behind the camera.
- Rehearsals (SD, 5 minutes) -- Additional footage with Carell, Rudd, Malco, and Rogen for a rewritten scene at a poker game.
- You Know How I Know You’re Gay? (SD, 5 minutes) -- A full-length extension of the scene where Rudd and Rogen hurl insults while playing a video game. It's slightly entertaining, but the tighter cut in the film had more of an impact than this repetitive take. As it stands, the laughs quickly fizzle.
- Date-A-Palooza (SD, 9 minutes) -- A scene extension that follows Andy and crew to their speed dating luncheon. This scene remains brisk and is just as funny as the cut that appears in the final film.
- Line-O-Rama (SD, 6 minutes) -- A montage of excised one-liners and ad-libs by Steve Carell. While they feel more like outtakes than extended scenes, they're still worth watching.
- Other Production Featurettes (SD, 11 minutes) – A trio of smaller featurettes including "My Dinner with Stormy" where Rogen has a chat with a porn star, a "Gag Reel" with outtakes and bloopers, and a "Waxing Doc" that covers the day of shooting when Carell was stripped of his chest hair.
- 1970s Sex Ed Film (SD, 5 minutes) – An archive short that’s as ridiculous as you might imagine (or remember).
’The 40-Year-Old Virgin’ also features one of Universal’s interactive U-Control Picture-in-Picture tracks. When activated, a window appears atop the film that displays making-of footage, interviews with cast and crew, and production material. Sadly, this particular track is a bit more sparse than those on other Universal discs, and tends to get repetitive since most (if not all) of the content has been nabbed from other supplements on the disc. Still, the fact that users can watch individual features or experience them via a PiP track makes this option a nice bonus.
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Featuring a career-boosting performance from Steve Carell, 'The 40 Year Old Virgin' smashes genre walls and delivers a raunchy sex comedy that's as heartfelt as it is hilarious. As a Blu-ray release, the video and audio on this disc are nothing to write home about, but the package is a clear upgrade from the DVD and includes an over-stuffed set of supplements (plus a high-def exclusive "U-Control" track) that's occasionally as entertaining as the film itself. Technical issues aside, this release earns a mild recommendation from me.
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