I have not wanted to own a comedy in a long time – the last one was Love Actually, at the end of 2003. I laughed great big belly laughs, delighted in comedic and plot surprises, and fantastic attention to detail in Andy Stitzer’s (Steve Carrell) world. Carrell has always been a dependable, straight-man performer, and he carries this movie (his first leading role and gag-man part) as effortlessly as some who earn $20 million a pop. Carrell co-wrote the script with first time feature director Judd Apatow, and together they made a rich, funny character study that is loving and respectful of their titular virgin while still mining that situation for as many laughs as possible. Dare I say, it has heart too? I felt such affection for Andy throughout the movie, and it made the laughs bigger.
I already want to see it again, and I felt that way about 70 minutes in. Probably sooner. What’s great about this movie (as with the Wedding Crashers) is the studio acceptance that the subject matter requires an R, and it won’t kill the box office. If this movie had been hamstrung by a PG-13 rating, it would have been limp and cold and dull. All of the performers are free to be their gleeful, hilarious, and even raunchy selves, when called for – and what a supporting cast! Catherine Keener and Elizabeth Banks (and Leslie Mann) are objects of Andy’s desire. His friends at the store (Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen, and Romany Malco) are as diverse as real co-workers and all bring something interesting and funny to the table. Their boss, Jane Lynch (you might remember her best from Best In Show or A Mighty Wind), sneaks in and takes her bite of the script pie as well.
You already know whether you want to see this movie – but what you might not know is how original it really is. While the over-reaching plot elements are similar to say, a Porky’s or American Pie movie (friends band together to obtain sex for themselves or a friend), the movie is even more about Andy’s self-actualization and the intensely awkward situations he gets himself into just by having been so insulated from the rest of the world. Some of the best jokes are throwaways or visual gags. While I can’t approve of the Grease-like under-message of” change who you are to get love,” I do love that at least he goes willingly to the slaughter.
Despite the surprisingly blatant product placement on the part of Universal Studios (Creature from the Black Lagoon through Everyone Loves Raymond), I never felt like I was being sold to. OK, I did once, when Malco was watching Dawn of the Dead, but it was so funny I didn’t mind. The movie belongs to Carrell; his fierce commitment to the character (yes, he was really waxed) and his complete and utter sweetness and handsomeness make him belong to us.
In Liar Liar, Jim Carrey, stuck trying to lie and being stymied by that spell, has a gibberish sound effects monologue; he later, as Bruce Almighty, forces Carrell’s newscaster character to have a similarly hysterical verbal moment. It appears that Carrell may have inherited something else from Carrey, which he would be well happy to obtain – adoring fans and tons more work.
MPAA Rating R-pervasive sexual content, language, drug use
Release date 8/19/05
Time in minutes 116
Director Judd Apatow
Studio Universal Studios