This is obviously Steve Carell week in the world of entertainment. Monday night, Carell appeared as a guest -- no longer a correspondent -- on The Daily Show, in an interview that was simultaneously hilarious and sweet while also probably maintaining the lowest word count of any Jon Stewart interview ever. Tonight, NBC presents a four-episode marathon of the Americanized The Office for which I am ever so grateful as all my recorded episodes were lost when they got bumped off my DiVo during Tribeca. And to cap it off, Friday marks the opening of Carell's first film in which he's the primary focus and star: The 40 Year-Old Virgin, hands down one of the funniest movies (if not the!) you'll see this year.
I got to catch an advance screening of the film about a few weeks ago, and while I had been looking forward to it, I walked out of the theater having enjoyed it much more than anticipated. Although a fair amount of credit certainly goes to writer/director Judd Apatow and a great supporting cast featuring Paul Rudd and the she-gets-better-and-hotter-as-she-gets-older Catherine Keener, this film would not be half as successful as it turns out to be were it not for the presence of Carell. He manages to instill a sweetness and innocence in the character that none of the other big comedy stars today can manage so perfectly. I love Will Farrell, but in this role, he would have been a disaster.
Carell had already been a scene-stealer in films like Anchorman and Bruce Almighty, and he was likely the best of the original Daily Show correspondents presenting a straight-faced, deadpan, yet usually outrageous situation while actually always looking like a real news correspondent. (As much as I love all four of the correspondents on the show, only Stephen Colbert really manages to do create the exact seem effect as Carell always did). But any doubts regarding whether or not he could carry an entire picture on his shoulders should be erased now.
One of the most amazing things about this film is that even though some of the funniest sequences are in the movie trailer we've all seen 100 times by now, these same scenes are even funnier in their full final versions. I knew what was coming throughout the chest waxing scene, yet it's put together so perfectly that I still found myself doubled over in pain from laughter. (Strangely enough, however, I can't remember another movie in which I noticed so many shots from the trailer that were actually missing from the final picture. I don't think what I saw was the final release cut, but I'd be pretty certain the picture had been locked, or at least only minor edits remained, and I can't imagine they would involve re-inserting scenes. If the movie has any flaws, it could still be a little bit tighter with the pacing starting to drag a bit as it approaches the end.)
It really wouldn't be fair to go into specifics. Suffice it to say, neither Wedding Crashers nor The Aristocrats has anything on The 40 Year-Old Virgin. If you want to laugh this weekend, along with trying to get to the last Fringe performance of The Salacious Uncle Baldrick, be sure to go see Carell as he catapults himself into the top tier of comedy movie stars. Really, he's likely the best of the lot.