The 40-Year-Old Virgin (Judd Apatow, 2005) is one of those high-concept movies that once it has been manifested, it feels like it was destined to exist all along. But this ingenious concept— Steve Carell as a virgin—is only the surface. Just as big, heaving boobs are only at the surface. Just as obligatory romantic comedy plot-points are just at the surface. And perhaps the 40-Year-Old Virgin operates only at the surface, with big giant boobies and bad fucking words, which, if that were the case, I’d say it absolutely-fucking-succeeds. That’s why it did so well at the box office, I presume—because apparently we Americans find big boobs and bad words to be really fucking funny! With that said, aside from the big boobies and the shocking language, I must admit, there are A LOT of jokes at play here.
From the onset, the profane-ridden jokes are rattled off a mile a minute, including a few slapstick moments that often involved a boner. Otherwise, it was one-liner after one-liner after one-liner after one-liner. And while they can be exhausting at times, some of these one-liners are definitely laugh-out-loud moments; some are a complete waste of time; but most are at least genuinely funny (especially the asides that often punctuate the end of a scene). On a random, side note, maybe Apatow’s films have too many jokes. By that, I mean, almost all of the characters are legitimately funny people with an awesome sense of humor. And maybe people really are this funny in real life… but maybe they aren’t. Either way, it’s Apatow’s world and it just happens to be populated by hilarious people who all seem prepped to do a set at the Laugh Factory at a moment’s notice. Even so, the 40-Year-Old Virgin really executes its concept solidly. It tends to deliver on its multitude of jokes, and the filmmakers take this concept to its only logical conclusion—a colorful, hippie-inspired, song/dance routine set to “Aquarius / Let the Sun Shine In.”
However, that’s all on the surface. If we were to delve deeper, real deep (“this is graphic”)— we’d find that this movie is actually a portrayal of the modern day American man… or should I say man-child? Whether intended or not, the 40-Year-Old Virgin is essentially about ashamed American men and their struggle to come to terms with their own sexuality, especially within the context of an ever-more liberal culture that constantly bombards them with sexually explicit content and unrealistic expectations of what a man (or woman) should be. This leads to faulty preconceived notions of what we expect from one another. This leads to miscommunication. Most importantly, this leads to a deeply insecure man with repressed feelings regarding his sexuality, which, in turn, leads to an epidemic of sophomoric man-children.
But what is really at the heart of the 40-Year-Old Virgin? Words. And on the surface, certain words may seem “bad,” but here, Apatow attempts to defuse the whole notion of a “bad” word. He does this by over-using profanity to such an extent, almost in a hyperbolic way, that it takes its power away, thus providing a neutral, even slate to operate from. This is important because the message of the movie is acceptance. In order to accept, one must let go of preconceived notions, and open up their mind. But first, we must accept ourselves. Then, we must accept everyone else. Whether they are gay, straight, virgin, woman, non-virgin, young, old, or whatever else.
… Or maybe it’s just about boobs and fucks.