LIPLOCKED: Banks and Carell.
It’s a measure of how bubblegum-flavored Hollywood movies have become that when I first heard the full blast of dirty language in “The 40 Year Old Virgin” — a character’s disturbingly funny description of a visit to a Tijuana “Donkey Show” if you must know — I was a little shocked. What makes this even more incredible is that I’m a fan of raunchy, sexual comedy. I was reading Lenny Bruce when I was 12. I had memorized Eddie Murphy’s entire set from “Delirious” — every word, every bump of his mother falling down the stairs, the whole bit about Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton from “The Honeymooners” being gay lovers — by the time I was in middle school. Still, it’s been so long since I actually saw anything other than a watered-down, PG-13 comedy in the theaters (and I can’t remember the last time I saw an out-and-out adult sex comedy in a theater) that I was actually taken a little aback at the audacity of “Virgin.”
Now that’s just sad.
Contrary to what you might assume by seeing the trailer, “Virgin” isn’t as horrible as you think. Sure, it starts slow, and ends weird, and the star — former “Daily Show” alum Steve Carell — kinda looks like a wax dummy. Once it gets rolling, however, “Virgin” eventually warms up to be a fairly funny little movie about the lengths your friends will go to help break you out of a slump (life-long in this case), especially when it comes to romance. It’s not side-splitting, slap-your-mother hilarious, but it is good for some decent-sized laughs.
Carell plays Andy Stitzer, a guy who is — you guessed it— a 40-year-old virgin. Stifled by his total ineptness when it comes to the opposite sex, Andy quit trying to score long ago, instead resigning himself to a life of collecting action figures, riding his bike and working at SmartTech, the strip-mall electronics store where he toils in the stockroom. While Andy seems perfectly content with this situation, after the word gets out about his virginity at a weekend poker game, his three friends from the store — all borderline sex fiends — set out to get him laid, no matter who the girl is. The problem is that by this time, Andy has his sights set on Trish (Catherine Keener), the 40-something who runs the store across the street from SmartTech. As their relationship grows — and terrified of making an ass out of himself on their first night together — Andy starts taking the sexual advice of his friends, to disastrous results.
Though Carell is funny here, playing up the straight-man chops he honed at “The Daily Show,” the heart and soul of “Virgin” turns out not to be Carell at all, but his friends from the store: David (Paul Rudd), Jay (Romay Malco) and the pot-dealing Cal (Seth Rogan). Most of the really big laughs come from these three would-be matchmakers, who often expose themselves to be more screwed up about women and sex than Andy is. Too, once they finally get together, Carell and Keener manage some genuine chemistry, almost magically turning “Virgin” from a raunchy sex romp into a sweet little movie about love and commitment and all that other stuff you have to say in order to get to the sex. Keener just never misses in any film we’ve seen her in; she’s fantastic here. And for our next favorite star, check out Elizabeth Banks, who had a comforting role in “Seabiscuit” as Jeff Bridges’ new, young wife, and is in the soon-to-be-seen sleeper love story “The Baxter.” Her, she plays a cute blonde bookstore employee with a dark side that Carell exposes. Jane Lynch, who shows up in all those Christopher Guest spoofs, plays a randy store manager to the hilt.
In short, please go see this movie. If you buy enough tickets for an adult-themed and adult-language comedy, maybe Hollywood will make more of the same. If not … well, let’s just say that when “American Pie 5” comes out, you’ll know who to blame.
— By David Koon
Once upon a time, children, there was a brilliant and visionary writer/director named Terry Gilliam. Back in his youth, Terry was a genius, helping write and direct many works by the “Monty Python” comedy troupe, including “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” and “Life of Brian.”
Then something terrible happened to Terry, kids. He kissed his mother and journeyed far, far away to an enchanted kingdom called “Hollywood.” Once there, it was as if an evil enchantment fell over young Terry. He made some OK movies after that — like “Brazil” and “12 Monkeys” — but mostly he made crap, like “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen” and his newest stinker, “The Brothers Grimm.” Corny, trite, with all the worst aspects of the current comic book/Hollywood trend of jazzing up literary figures and turning them into monster-fighting rock stars (as seen in “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” “Van Helsing,” and Tim Burton’s much more effective “Sleepy Hollow,” which turns bumbling schoolmaster Ichabod Crane into an equally bumbling proto-detective, played by Johnny Depp), “The Brothers Grimm” is pretty much dead on arrival, the last gasp of the summer that maybe — finally — saw the demise of the big-budget summer blockbuster as we know it.
True to the era-bending genre, here Matt Damon and Heath Ledger play “Will” and “Jake” Grimm (respectively) — two hunky con men based on the real-life and oh-so-boring German folklore collectors Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm. Where the real Grimms were content with a rousing yarn, these two are in it for the money, going from village to village using slight-of-hand to con the populace into the idea that their lands are cursed by demons, witches and ghosts, which they are all too happy to exorcise, for a fee.
After girls start coming up missing in a remote village, however, the Grimms are summoned by the occupying French government and given an ultimatum: Get to the bottom of the case and find the girls, or die a gruesome, tortured death. What follows is only slightly less painful than dancing until you die while wearing red-hot iron slippers. The brothers go on a search for an evil queen (Monica Bellucci) who is anything but a hoax. With the help of a suitably sexy female hunting guide (Lena Headley) and more corny riffs on fairy tales than you can imagine (girls in little red riding hoods, sleeping princesses who can only be woken with a kiss, glass slippers, princely toads, etc.) they journey into the unknown and try to save the village from its curse.
While there are some fairly interesting scenes and special effects in “Brothers Grimm,” for the most part it feels like a movie I’ve seen before — namely a second-run clone of Burton’s “Sleepy Hollow.” Both are dark and forboding, both speaking to the closed-mindedness of rural folk and the arrogance of city slickers. Unlike “Grimm” however, “Sleepy Hollow” was a film that knew how to laugh at itself, as opposed to dropping a few wise-assed comments on fairy tales and leaving it at that. Where “Sleepy Hollow” was a sort of an expanded riff on Irving’s original tale, full of cleverness, intrigue and suspense, “Grimm” is just so much fluff. Our potion for living happily ever after? Blow off “Brothers” and make a trip to the video store.
— By David Koon