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Steve Carell has been Hollywood's 'best kept secret' for rather a long time, frequently popping up in movies and making audiences wonder where they’ve seen him before. In 2005, ‘that guy from that thing you saw him in’, finally made it big; he managed to erase memories of Ricky Gervais in the US version of The Office and appeared in the big screen spin-off of Bewitched with old cohort Will Ferrell. However, undoubtedly the main event was his first headlining part in a feature film; snagging the title role in The 40 Year Old Virgin and, at the same time, catapulting himself into the A-List.  

40 Year Old Virgin, The
The plot of The 40 Year Old Virgin can be summed up by a cursory glance at the title of the movie. In slightly more detail; Carell plays Andy Stitzer, a socially-awkward forty year old who works in an electronics superstore with a group of sex-obsessed men. When Stitzer reveals to his colleagues that his virginity is still firmly attached, they set about helping him lose it as quickly as possible. Naturally, this entails humiliation, comical misunderstandings and a fair amount of bawdy humour.

The 40 Year Old Virgin is an unapologetic one-joke comedy, but that one joke struggles to sustain an overlong running time. It’s probable that the script became a little chunky as filming started and the cast were encouraged to improvise at will. While the actors are a talented bunch (Andy’s group of friends include Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen) it often seems that they’re having a much funnier experience than the audience. Long scenes in which they discuss topics with no bearing on the plot are initially funny but ultimately wear thin when the movie passes the ninety minute mark. It’s all reminiscent of Anchorman (starring many of the same actors), which would have been twice the film had it been half as long.

When the narrative returns to the plot, the movie is a lot more enjoyable. Catherine Keener plays Andy’s love-interest Trish and, although she’s absent for many of the earlier scenes, she gives the film some sense of purpose in the later stages and changes the ‘sex-story’ into a love-story. This focus is initially missing in the film; instead the makers seem intent to just show a loser-in-love; hardly new territory for the genre. Scenes with Andy attempting to chat up women in clubs are amusing due to Carell’s performance, but they’re hopelessly unoriginal. Far more successful are scenes which more naturally into the context of the film's plot; a later sequence where he must accompany Trish’s teenage daughter to a sex education class is innovative and a particular highlight. It’s clear that, when the writers refuse to be distracted into squeezing comedy out of other well-worn scenarios, there are a lot of laughs to be had.

40 Year Old Virgin, The
Ultimately, the film can only go in one direction and it wouldn't be spoiling things to reveal that Andy loses his cherry at the finale of the film. No, this film is about the journey rather than the ‘anti-climatic’ destination and it’s a bumpy, scenic route to the end credits. While improvised comedy occasionally gives us comic gold, too often it gives us overlong indulgent movies with a lack of focus. With more disciplined direction and editing, this could have been an undisputed comedy classic. Unfortunately, it will join the ranks of 'reasonable but disappointing' comedies to come from this talented group of actors.

Make no mistake, The 40 Year Old Virgin was one of the better releases of a patchy year at the cinema and it's not an unpleasant way to spend ninety minutes. It’s just a shame that it’s still playing for half an hour after that.

The 40 Year Old Virgin is afforded a 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer. Although the picture boasts clarity and sharpness, it does all feel a little lifeless with an abundance of bland colours. The darker colours are presented well, but lighter shades, particularly when shot outside of the studio, do not look so good. It’s satisfactory without ever being outstanding.

A 5.1 Dolby Digital track does the job here, and while it’s not going to rock the room, it’s more than adequate for a film which relies on dialogue. Speech is clear and concise. The numerous songs from the soundtrack also sound reasonable, although the music from the rear-speakers occasionally sounds a little tinny.

40 Year Old Virgin, The
One glance at the menus will give you the impression that there's a variety of bonus materials, but a couple of minutes of browsing will eventually lead you to the conclusion that, aside from additional scenes, there's very little to get excited about. The menus of a high-profile release have rarely been so badly designed and instead of separating each type of extra into sub-menus, they're simply scattered in an incoherent order.

Since a lot of the comedy in the film was improvised by the cast, there's a huge amount of deleted and extended scenes. Clearly a lot of this was shot with the knowledge that the majority of it would be heavily edited as the over-egging of jokes gets a little tiring. Despite the DVD promoting 'Date-a-palooza', 'You Know How I Know You're Gay?', 'Andy's Fantasies', 'Cal and Paula' and 'Advice from Mooj' as separate entities from the deleted scenes, these are also just more examples of discarded footage. Director/co-writer Judd Apatow and actor/co-producer Seth Rogen provide a commentary for the scenes, although a full-length effort for the feature itself would be more welcome.

'Line-o-rama' shows short snippets of scenes with the actors attempting alternate lines. Usually, the lines get more outrageous as the cuts progress so this is worth a look for those viewers who enjoyed the more risqué aspects of the movie.

'My Dinner with Stormy' is a very short featurette where the co-producer and supporting cast member, Seth Roegan meets the 'adult actress' Stormy, who has a brief appearance in the film. Since Stormy has the personality of a plank of wood, this makes a pretty dull extra.

The 'Waxing Doc' featurette presents a look at the filming of the chest waxing sequence. It's the closest we get to a 'behind the scenes' documentary but, considering it's only three minutes long, don't expect much in the way of insight.

There's a nice four-minute gag-reel which perhaps explains why there so many additional scenes; the cast clearly had a pretty good time on set. Finally, we have a couple a trailers for The Skeleton Key and Serenity.
40 Year Old Virgin, The
Badly designed menus and ‘samey’ extras do The 40 Year Old Virgin few favours. Since the majority of the special features are deleted scenes, this disappointing disc will only excite people who thought that this bloated comedy wasn’t long enough in its original form. Everyone else would be wise to wait for a price reduction or perhaps a special edition.