Steve Carell's first star turn has plenty in common with "Wedding Crashers," for good and ill. Crude, sophomorically homophobic but frequently funny, pic also overstays its welcome a bit and indulges in some juvenile excesses. All told, though, "The 40 Year Old Virgin" delivers enough belly laughs that it should score pretty consistently.

This review was corrected on August 15, 2005.

Continuing this summer’s revenge of the “R”-rated comedy, Steve Carell’s first star turn after a number of second-banana roles has plenty in common with “Wedding Crashers,” for (mostly) good and ill. Crude, sophomorically homophobic but frequently funny, pic also overstays its welcome a bit and indulges in some juvenile excesses. All told, though, “The 40 Year Old Virgin” delivers enough belly laughs that it should score pretty consistently, particularly with the frat-boy contingent of the “Crashers” crowd.

Carell plays Andy, an unassuming clerk in an electronic equipment store who gets drawn into a poker game with a trio of his co-workers. As the guys swap sex stories, it becomes painfully evident that Andy doesn’t have any of his own, having given up on women after a couple of painful (and painfully funny) early miscues.

That’s right, as hard as it is to believe, a fellow who collects superhero action figures that fill his apartment and still rides a bike to work has managed to reach 40 without getting laid. So after subjecting Andy to some schoolyard humiliation, his newfound pals — salesmen David (Paul Rudd) and Jay (Romany Malco) and stock worker Cal (Seth Rogen) — make it their business to remove the scarlet “V” from Andy’s resume.

They begin with the easy stuff, coaching Andy on how to pick up “drunk bitches” in bars or prodding him to chat up customers, which leads to Andy’s relationship with Trish (Catherine Keener), who runs a “store” that sells people’s stuff via eBay. (It’s one of several prominent product placements in the movie.)

Trish wants to take things slowly, which is just fine by Andy, whose lack of experience has him dreading the moment perhaps more than anticipating it.

Written by Carell and producer Judd Apatow, “Virgin” derives much of its humor from the non-virgins trying to lead Andy to the promised land — three stooges who, each in his own way, are far more dysfunctional than he is. David, for example, hasn’t gotten over a girlfriend he’s borderline stalking, Jay chronically cheats on his soul-mate, and Cal is a roly-poly goofball full of moronic dating advice.

“Be David Caruso in ‘Jade,’” he says in one of the better obscure non-sequiturs in recent memory.

Following his starring role in NBC’s adaptation of “The Office” as well as first-class stints in “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” (which Apatow produced) and “Bruce Almighty,” Carell is established as a possible addition to the ranks of comedy headliners, while pic wisely lightens his burden with an able supporting cast. Beyond the guys, that includes Jane Lynch — a veteran of Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy’s “Best in Show” troupe — as Andy’s boss and Elizabeth Banks as another potential conquest who he chats up, with surprising success, using Cal’s seduction tips.

Although there are a few big sight gags — highlighted by the hirsute Andy’s extremely painful body wax — most of the comedy comes from the quirky characters and their decidedly unenlightened views regarding sexual conquests. Rudd, the scene-stealing Malco (currently seen in Showtime’s “Weeds”) and Rogen (a veteran of Apatow’s TV shows “Undeclared” and “Freaks and Geeks”) are all dead-on, making the most of high school put-downs of the “You know why you’re gay?” variety.

As with “Wedding Crashers,” “Virgin” is occasionally guilty of trying too hard, and there are a few dry spells that probably could have been cured by judicious editing. For all the cleverness displayed here, there’s not quite enough gas in the tank to sustain what’s nearly a two-hour running time.

Still, there’s an ample supply of inspired irreverence to amuse a younger audience, and pic closes with a catchy sequence that should stir even a slightly older demo into humming an especially appropriate song from the ’80s — “Just Got Lucky” — as they head up the aisles.

The 40 Year Old Virgin

Production

A Universal release of an Apatow production. Produced by Judd Apatow, Clayton Townsend, Shauna Robertson. Executive producers, Steve Carell, Jon Poll. Co-producer, Seth Rogen. Directed by Judd Apatow. Screenplay, Apatow, Steve Carell.

Crew

Camera (FotoKem color), Jack Green; editor, Brent White; music, Lyle Workman; production designer, Jackson DeGovia; art director, Tom Reta; set decorator, K.C. Fox; costume designer, Debra McGuire; sound (DTS SDDS Dolby Digital), David MacMillian; supervising sound editor, George Anderson; special effects supervisors, Richard Stutsman, William H. Schirmer; associate producer, Andrew Jay Cohen; assistant director, Michele Panelli-Venetis; stunt coordinator, Buddy Joe Hooker; casting, Allison Jones, Marla Garlin. Reviewed at AMC Century City 14, Los Angeles, Aug. 3, 2005. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 116 MIN.

With

Andy - Steve Carell Trish - Catherine Keener David - Paul Rudd Jay - Romany Malco Cal - Seth Rogen Beth - Elizabeth Banks Nicky - Leslie Mann Paula - Jane Lynch

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