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The 40-Year-Old Virgin

With his first lead role in a film, Steve Carell reveals himself to be the closest thing there is now to Peter Sellers, the comedic genius of decades past. As star, co-writer and producer of “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” Carell draws on his Second City experience by surrounding himself with talented players, and together they play the script perfectly.

Although Carell is playing just one character, while Sellers made it his trademark to play several wildly divergent characters is a single film, Carell hits enough varied comic notes in this movie to be worthy of the comparison. As the title character, Andy Stitzer, an electronics store salesman, Carell is found out for what he is by fellow salesmen played by Paul Rudd, Romany Malco and Seth Rogen.

From the beginning, Carell captures what you would guess a 40-year-old virgin male would act like, especially in the hilarious scene early in the movie where he tries to cover it up during a poker game conversation with the salesmen.

As the plot progresses, with his buddies setting up one potential first time after another, Carell gets to expertly display everything from the aforementioned naivete to being emboldened by drinking and on to an instance of hitting on a salesgirl at a bookstore by phrasing everything he says as questions in a way that's reminiscient of what Sellers did with Chauncey Gardner in "Being There," where the character's blankness allowed everyone else in scenes to project themselves onto him.

This effect is enhanced by the supporting actors around Carell, and how Judd Apatow, the director and co-writer of the movie, helps guide them. Jane Lynch (best known for “Best In Show”) is certainly memorable as the electronics store manager who is tough on the salesmen, but also sees a dating opportunity when word gets out about Carell's virginity. Apatow, both in his writing and directing hats, contributes to hilarious set pieces such as Carell’s character trying out masturbation for the first time, and several failed attempts at hook-ups before the plot progresses with Catherine Keener, Carell’s co-star.

Before this movie, Carell has only gotten the opportunity to hit one or two facets of characters in small supporting roles in recent comedies like “Anchorman” and “Bruce Almighty.” In the American remake of “The Office” this past spring on NBC, Carell delivered a more fleshed out character as the self-deluded boss. "40-Year-Old Virgin," however, really sets Carell to show his range, including the charm he shows as the relationship with Keener blossoms.

The movie is definitely more than the shallow comedy that one might expect from the title, and Carell deserves credit for infusing it with that humanity. Hopefully this is the first in the string of comedy classics from him that will make up a list as long as those of Sellers.




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