'The 40-Year-Old Virgin,' Ten Years Later

Judd Apatow's directing debut questioned manhood with juvenile delinquency.

Universal Pictures

When you think about The 40-Year-Old Virgin being 10 years old, it might make you pause. It can’t be. But August 19, 2005 was indeed the release date for Judd Apatow’s The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Andy would be 50 now.

Revisiting the movie, it hasn’t aged well; casual racism and homophobia run rampant, as the jokes go for the obvious. Yeah it’s funny but c’mon, try harder. It was also shot on actual film — a million feet by the end of production — giving the modern comedy an uncharacteristically aged feel. It’s the kind of movie possessing humor favored by those that find “offensive” comedy the only comedy worthwhile.

But through two hours of gross dialogue slung like fecal matter from monkeys, there’s a heart of gold beating in The 40-Year-Old Virgin. It’s just difficult to see with the simian shit in your eyes.

The directorial debut of comedy writer and producer Judd Apatow, The 40-Year-Old Virgin follows sweet but shy Andy who has walked 40 years on Earth as dry as a desert. He’s not a creep or a helpless wreck, just a loser who hasn’t won in life. With the help of some co-workers, Andy embarks on a quest to lose his virginity and, naturally, finds love in the process.

A toilet mouth, genuine empathy, and the vision of Judd Apatow allowed The 40-Year-Old Virgin to become a game changer, formulating a new language in comedic cinema that’s still dominant today. For better or worse.

Regardless of its revolutionary/de-evolutionary impact, it was the key to Apatow’s kingdom: His own subgenre. “The Apatow Comedy” is a thing, a domain that posses unique tropes belonging only to itself: Affable, kind of dumb, usually white average Joes or Janes reluctant to confront a flaw within by some outward action — an inner journey told through shot-reverse shots and whip-smart dialogue most likely was improved on set. When you hear “From the Makers of Knocked Up and The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” you know what you’re getting.

Most difficult to compromise with The 40-Year-Old Virgin is its inconsistent spirit. The movie wrestles with itself, its beautiful themes of friendship and companionship at odds with its backwards politics and for-shock humor. Andy’s co-workers are really trying to help him, they care about him, but you’re totally gay for liking Coldplay. Or: I know gay guys, in jail. Or: getting your chest wax is literally the gayest thing ever. (The film has a really ugly view on homosexuality despite being a sex comedy.)

When it values the hilarity of a character’s distress over a cheap gay joke, that’s when Virgin shines.

Virgin’s worst humor is as clever as a cuss-spewing teenager with a guaranteed spot in the dopiest frat. Someday he’ll be a charming young man, but right now he has puberty to get through and he’s fucking annoying.

I admit, sometimes I miss being that kid.

I still laughed watching, even though I knew every punchline, even though I know better not to laugh at intergender prostitutes. Did I find it genuinely funny — some of it really was — or had I allowed myself to become a “teenaged Asian kid” again, when I thought girls fucking horses (the first gross joke we hear in the film, setting the tone appropriately) was unique and groundbreaking?

Mirroring the eventual maturation that would give us Trainwreck (which isn’t a vanguard of progressive comedy, but is still a leap from a “You know how I know you’re gay?” barrage) are the movie’s talents. Of course, Steve Carrel and co-stars Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd have gone on to become the leading men we know they should be, but along with them came Jane Lynch, Jonah Hill as the best customer in film history, Kat Dennings whose character catapults Andy into a father figure, Mindy Kaling, Kevin Hart, Jenna Fischer, Romany Malco, Elizabeth Banks… The movie is a revolving door of reverse cameos.

It wasn’t until as I was started watching it again that I realized I hadn’t seen the end in years. The 40-Year-Old Virgin is one of those movies that, however popular, end up as background noise on TV on a lazy Sunday. I’d watch a few dozen minutes before going on to do whatever I had that was more urgent.

I was caught off-guard. I wasn’t tearing up, but I was touched.

For the majority of the 117 minutes I was so turned off by its juvenilia that I failed to see the affirmation that the paradigm of manhood is bunk. We’re at a very interesting crossroads culturally where we are removing the sacredness of virginity in women, but for boys/men the pressure to lose it or else, as Andy puts it, “something is wrong,” is powerfully overwhelming. Andy still has sex and achieves the traditionally-viewed ultimate growth in a man, marriage (and by extension fatherhood) in the end because that’s just sweet and life-affirming and so Hollywood, but for awhile The 40-Year-Old Virgin had stopped being the immature teenager I had accused it of.

It was the 40-year-old adult that just didn’t have sex.