The 40-Year-Old Virgin
dir. Apatow
Opens Fri Aug 19
Various Theaters

The PG-13 rating might've been the worst thing to ever happen to movies. Well, maybe not to all movies, but certainly to comedies and action films; ever since the designation came about (largely thanks to parental furor over Spielberg's PG-rated Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom), studios have used it as an easy way to sell films that could appeal to adults, but can also be marketed to a far larger audience of teens and kids. As a result, R-rated comedies like Caddyshack, Animal House, and (ah, what the hell) The Breakfast Club have largely become extinct.

So thank Christ for The 40-Year-Old Virgin, a giddily puerile and surprisingly sweet film that heartily deserves its R rating—and, unlike other R-rated comedies, tells a story that's neither dumbed down for fourth graders (American Pie) nor annoyingly desperate to be stupid (Deuce Bigalow). And more importantly than any of that, it's funnier than shit.

Steve Carell earnestly plays Andy, a—well, duh—40-year-old virgin. When his coworkers discover that the dorky, uptight, and weirdly adorable Andy has never—how shall I put this?—fucked, they decide to do something about it. Hi-jinks, of course, ensue.

Virgin largely succeeds because of two things: Star/writer Carell, and his co-writer and director, Judd Apatow. Carell, who played the straight man on The Daily Show and (literally) acted retarded in Anchorman, has an inherent charm and a sense of uncomfortable restraint; as Andy, he's both hilarious to laugh at and sympathetic to watch. Backed up by his work buddies (a perfect ensemble of Paul Rudd, Romany Malo, and Seth Rogen) and chief love interest (Catherine Keener), Carell keeps Virgin's comedy fast and sharp.

And Apatow—who also served up the much-loved/short-lived TV series Freaks and Geeks—knows his comedy. Whether it's dealing with the nerdy minutia that makes up Andy's life or Andy's pathetically sincere desperation, the outlandish, finely tuned script for Virgin is deftly helmed by Apatow. True, the most important thing about The 40-Year-Old Virgin isn't its rating, but the fact that it's just a really funny movie. But it's fairly refreshing to feel like somebody out there remembered that once upon a time, funny movies were made for grown ups, too. Huh.