Barbarella begins in the fur-lined cockpit of a space-faring starcraft, fabulously appointed with a statue of a moon goddess and, inexplicably, what looks to be a full-sized replica of A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grand Jatte. Despite the high-flown frivolity of its conception and the infectiously groovy theme song, this tableau does not represent the most quintessentially with-it of all possible sci-fi worlds. That changes when the astronaut who has floated into view starts pulling off the different panels of her moon-suit to reveal, underneath the shapeless layers of scuba-like gear, a naked strawberry-blonde with slender, delicate fingers and legs that don’t quit.
It seems apropos, somehow, of current pop-culture attitudes thatThe 40 Year-Old Virgin, hyped as a raunchy R-rated alternative to PG-13 comedies, would have such a love/hate relationship with explicit material. On the one hand, it indulges a penchant for dialogue that’s occasionally vulgar (shit-stained balls indeed) and consistently profane (check out the string of swears ad-libbed by star and co-writer Steve Carell in his big did-my-own-stunts chest-waxing scene). On the other hand, its characters eventually evince a weird primness where actual visual depictions of sexuality are concerned. What’s that about?