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.
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.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.