The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)
These comments and nudity summaries refer to the unrated DVD:
Like our founding fathers, there are certain truths which I hold self-evident. You know, simple truths like "we have an inalienable right to liberty," and "any dish with sour cream in it will taste pretty good," and "Jessica Alba is smokin' hot." In fact, my self-evident truths are not that different from those of the founding fathers. They had no way to know about Jessica Alba, but all of them were known to cast lustful eyes at Dolly Madison, especially that rapscallion Jefferson. What the hell do you think they meant by "the pursuit of happiness"?
One of my self-evident truths is that comedy is as worthwhile as drama or tragedy. Write down why you think art is important. When you are satisfied with your definition, you will see that it applies to comedy and drama equally. You might have written, for example, "it offers us insight into the human condition," or "it entertains us," or "it allows us to understand others better." No matter what you have on your list, there is no reason why comedy cannot do it just as well as drama. Taking the point a step farther, you might even argue that comedy is even more worthwhile than drama, since (1) making people laugh makes them feel good, and that's a positive contribution to humanity (2) many doctors contend that laughter is therapeutic in many ways and for many conditions.
Furthermore, a universally praised comedy is more of an achievement than its tragic or dramatic equivalent because it is more difficult to make people laugh than cry. Hell, it's easy to provoke tears. Show children being brutalized. Show people dying needlessly, before their time. Show a faithful dog waiting patiently for a gentle and beloved master who will never return. 100% effective.
Dying is easy.
Comedy is hard.
The tragedy formulas work on everyone, so it is possible to create a drama with nearly universal appeal. The faithful dog trick works on everyone from Hitler to Mother Theresa. Not so with comedy. Because there is no universal formula comparable to the tragedy rules, it is difficult to make comedies with universal appeal. The ability of a comic to turn jokes into laughter is contingent on the preconceptions of the listeners. Ask Mort Sahl, whose job was to ridicule those in power. He was feted as the funniest man in the world when Eisenhower was in power, then was relegated to smoky half-empty nightclubs when his job became to make pointed barbs about JFK. Ask Dennis Miller, universally regarded as one of the greatest comic minds in history until he turned his sharp barbs at liberal America. Sahl and Miller didn't stop being funny, but their core audiences stopped laughing. A comic has to tailor his material in order to get laughs, and he had better know his audience. The ethnic jokes - no matter how brilliant - will be booed by the PC nutburgers. The sex jokes will be poo-pooed by the religious nutburgers. And don't plan on a career in comedy if you're planning to use your wit against liberals. Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert, who love to rail against stupidity on both sides of the aisle, actually get catcalls from the audience when they use their wit to make even the most obvious points which contradict the liberal canon - for daring to notice that Rosa Parks has been wildly overrated by history, or that John Kerry is a stiff-ass douchebag. Stewart and Colbert are funny and sophisticated men, but their audience just wants more Bush=chimp jokes.
Which brings us to award season. It is reasonably easy to obtain consensus on the effectiveness of dramas, but next to impossible to get people to agree on comedies, so the awards always follow the path of least resistance. Deep Throat advised Woodstein to "follow the money," but that only works in politics. When it comes to movie awards, the resident nabobs almost never follow the money, because the money follows comedies and fantasies, and the elders of the cinema church simply don't consider those worthy. (They finally had to break down and award Return of the King when it became obvious that they'd look like complete fools if they ignored one of the supreme achievements in the history of cinema, but I don't believe they will ever award a true comedy, no matter how good it is.)
When was the last time that a comedy won Best Picture? No, I don't mean one of those character-based films like Tootsie, or a musical comedy like Chicago, but a comedy that actually makes people laugh. Where are the Farrelly's Oscars for There's Something About Mary and Dumb and Dumber? Where are Groucho's Oscars for Duck Soup? Where is Leslie Nielsen's Oscar for playing Frank Drebin in Police Story? Where are the Oscars for those guys who wrote Airplane?
They must be in the mail.
Mel Brooks does have a screenwriting Oscar for The Producers and Woody Allen has two, including one for Annie Hall, which also won him Best Director. Woody is just about the only comedy writer who doesn't get the door shut in his face by the H'wood establishment. He has something like 13 "best original screenplay" nominations, including some for mediocre movies. (Alice??)
The British, to their eternal credit, do a much better job of recognizing comedy. They do not treat comedy writers as equals, but they do occasionally let them sit with the adults. In 1994, they gave the original screenplay BAFTA to Harold Ramis and Danny Rubin for Groundhog Day, as they well should have, over The Piano and In the Line of Fire. Groundhog Day was not even nominated for an Oscar! In 1997 the Brits gave the Best Picture award to The Full Monty over Titanic. I'm not sure that I support that decision, but the point is that at least they were inviting comedy to sit at the big boy table. (For the record, the Brits have been more accepting of fantasy films and other genre movies as well, awarding Best Picture awards to The Fellowship of the Ring and The Usual Suspects in years when the Yanks were honoring A Beautiful Mind and Braveheart.)
Which finally brings us back to The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Let us imagine a different world. It is one in which comedies are treated as equals and therefore receive at least half of the Oscar nominations. Our perfect imaginary world also includes a filter that prevents tragedies or dramas with a few funny lines from stealing any of the comedy nominations, which are reserved only for pure comedies. In such a world, The 40-Year-Old Virgin would be nominated for Best Picture. It is not only a very funny movie, but it is also involving, and tremendously perceptive about human relationships. It is one of the year's two funniest comedies (with Wedding Crashers); it is also one of the two best overall movies among the comedy entries (with Wallace and Gromit); and is the only film which is a shoo-in for both the "funniest comedy" and "best overall comedy film" lists. My two younger kids are big movie buffs. My 21-year-old son opines that this is the best comedy film of the year, although perhaps not as funny as Wedding Crashers. My 19-year-old daughter says it is the funniest film of the year, period. Viewed from just about any perspective, it is the best comedy of the year, which would automatically earn an Oscar nomination in a good and just world.
The film provided Steve Carell with a chance to to come off the comedy bench and become a star. He stepped up and slugged it out of the park, but in a very unassuming way. Carell is not a crazy scene-stealer like Carrey or Ferrell or Vaughn, and he got very few opportunities to be funny in any obvious way. He just delivered his lines within his naive character and trusted the material. Fundamentally, he played the Mary Tyler Moore role in an ensemble comedy. That was the right choice, and some good acting as well. He kept the entire part well within the limits of credibility. If you watch this movie, you will never doubt for a minute that he really is a virgin.
The basic plot is that three rowdy retail workers find out that their 40-year-old colleague is a virgin, so they resolve to get him laid. Various well-intentioned but stupid attempts fail for various reasons, but our hero does eventually find a girl on his own. Unfortunately, he is too timid to have sex with her because he has no idea what he's doing, and he's too intimidated to admit his virginal status. That's about all there is to it. Pure and simple premise. The brilliance is in the execution, the balls-to-the-wall humor, and the empathy we establish for the characters.
I liked the DVD extras just as much as I liked the film itself. Basically, there isn't a bad minute anywhere. The deleted scenes and outtakes are just as funny as the material that made it into the film. The scenes weren't deleted because they stunk, but for one of two reasons: (1) in some scenes, the guys improvised a lot of different jokes and it wouldn't make sense to keep more than one; (2) in other cases, the material was too naughty or the lines were too hard to understand. The full-length commentary is also funny, and even some of the completely unrelated material (Seth Rogan's "My Dinner With Stormy") is a hoot!
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