There are very few subjects I get defensive about. I'm secure enough in my own beliefs that I don't fuss over any one stereotype in the media. Except when it comes to geeks.
I really, really dislike the "jock" mentality that so often permeates popular culture, casting geeks as introverted serial killers in the making. Thus, I gave The 40-Year-Old Virgin a wide berth. Eventually, a friend lent us the DVD. Secure in the knowledge that the studio wasn't making any money from my viewing, I sat down and watched the film. I'm glad I did.
Virgin is pretty much exactly what the title says it is: 40-year-old Andy Stitzer (Steve Carell) accidentally reveals that he's actually a virgin during a poker game with his coworkers. The cast of characters includes the lovelorn David (Paul Rudd, former beaux of Phoebe Buffay), the urban skirt-chaser Jay (Romany Malco), and pot-smoking author Cal (Seth Rogen). Each of these guys brings their own philosophy to the film as they hatch plots to get Andy laid.
Andy is a sweet guy. He doesn't curse, doesn't do drugs, and doesn't drink. He rides his bike to work everyday. A huge multimedia system, complete with game chair and large-screen TV, dominates his living room. He keeps a massive collection of toys and posters, harkening back to the 60s. In essence, you would expect Andy to be running a company like Apple.
Unfortunately, nobody else sees it that way. His coworkers are chiefly concerned with his sexual prowess. The females in his life-and there's really only Trish, played by Catherine Keener-want him to "grow up." More about that later.
David, the most well rounded of Andy's work friends, is obsessed with his ex-girlfriend Amy (Mindy Kaling, still working at The Office). He tries to gently ease Andy into the dating life and appears to be the ringleader of the group; but in reality he's not much better off. David can barely contain his rage about being dumped, especially after he bumps into his ex at a speed-dating contest.
Jay, on the other hand, rams poor Andy into the most awkward and terrifying social situations. He's a dawg himself, cheating on his long time girlfriend Jill (Erica Vittina Phillips). In reality, Jay's pathetically insecure, getting into fights with customers and hilarious confrontations with coworkers (especially Mooj, played by Gerry Bednob).
Cal is at the opposite end of the spectrum. He smokes pot, he writes books, and he's apparently not very successful at either. Cal encourages Andy just to ask questions, parroting back whatever women say to him. Sadly, that tactic works…although Andy discovers the woman he manages to snare (the naughty Elizabeth Banks as Beth) is not someone he wants to be with.
In fact, the only person who has anything in common with Andy is Trish, the entrepreneur across the street who sells stuff on Ebay. Without much effort, Andy ends up getting her number. And then spends the rest of the film wondering what to do about it.
At first blush, this film seems to be a blistering attack on the geek way of life. After all, Andy's encouraged to grow up by selling all his toys and buying a car. But a closer look reveals that Judd Apatow, executive producer of Freaks and Geeks, directed Virgin. This man is a friend of the geek if not a geek himself.
Sure enough, each of Andy's macho friends goes through some growth on his own. It's not Andy who has to grow up, but the obsessive Davids, the girl-crazy Jays, and the pot-sniffing Cal's. And they do. Well, everyone except Cal. In the process, Andy comes out of his shell and into his own, progressing from backroom tech guy to front room floor manager and mustering up the courage to pursue the one woman he really wants to be with.
Through it all, we learn a lot from Andy. His childish sense of wonder makes him a great playmate for Trish's youngest daughter. Trish, incidentally, has three children and one of them has a child, making her a grandmother. Andy's abstinence from sex makes him a great role model for Trish's middle daughter. His gentle nature makes him an excellent salesperson. And of course he's tech savvy, making him a great techie.
By the end of The 40-Year-Old Virgin, we discover the joke's on us. Apatow is laughing at us laughing at Andy. Perhaps being a geek isn't such a bad thing after all.