Respectably Raunchy; Screen Cads Choose Marriage, Monogamy

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 26, 2005 | Go to article overview

Respectably Raunchy; Screen Cads Choose Marriage, Monogamy


Byline: Scott Galupo, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

A culture-war truce of sorts has been reached at the movies this summer between the forces of virtue and raunch. In a season of calculated naughtiness, as signified by a profusion of movies with the ever-elastic PG-13 rating, two decidedly racy, R-rated comedies have distinguished themselves by a surprise concomitant element - decency.

Robust box office numbers hint that you've already seen "Wedding Crashers," the summer's breakout hit. Starring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson as a pair of cads who, despite themselves, discover the pleasures of monogamy and, indeed, marriage, "Crashers" has earned $178 million domestically and another $30.6 million overseas.

What begins as a frenzied and cynical quest for pliant flesh at all manner of ethnic wedding receptions soon shifts gears and becomes a grown-up reappraisal of thirtysomething manhood. Mr. Wilson's character sees lonely middle age on the horizon, and doesn't like the view.

"We're not that young," he confesses blearily to Mr. Vaughn, who is still tippling a bottle of bubbly at dawn on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, after a night of wedding-reception revelry and mass cake consumption.

Later, Mr. Wilson genuinely falls for one of his "marks," played by Rachel McAdams, at a Washington society wedding. He's attracted by her beauty but also by inner qualities such as maturity, wittiness, verve and idealism. "I just want you to know, you deserve someone great," he tells her in one of the movie's sappier, yet unquestionably heartfelt, moments.

Mr. Vaughn, meanwhile, convinces a nymphomaniac to forsake anonymous Brazilian sex partners and other exotica, and join him at the altar. Not exactly the stuff of Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland, but, in the context of "Crashers," it works just fine. And while it flaunts a secret-society code of "wedding crasher" ethics, the movie is also a good-natured celebration of male friendship and loyalty.

Moviegoers counterintuitively found the same virtues last weekend in "The 40 Year-Old Virgin," a riotous farce starring comedian Steve Carell as the lonely title character, who, egged on by his carnally-infatuated work mates at an electronics store, decides to give mate-seeking another whirl.

But what could easily have turned into a carnival of seduction and regressive skirt-chasing turns out, in the end, to be a vindication of marital exclusivity.

Mr. Carell's middle-aged virgin - skip to the next paragraph if you haven't seen the movie - does not rid himself of his virginity in some squalid, late-night encounter, as might have occurred had the movie hewed to the "American Pie" (by way of "Porky's") vision of instrumental sex. He saves it for the marriage bed.

Unsurprisingly, given the remarkable success of "Wedding Crashers," "The 40 Year-Old Virgin" opened at the top of the box office last weekend, taking in $20. …

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