40 Days and 40 Nights (2002) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA Rated: R for strong sexual content, nudity and language
Running Time: 96 min.
Cast: Josh Hartnett, Shannyn Sossamon, Monet Mazur, Maggie Gyllenhaal
Director: Michael Lehmann
Screenplay: Rob Perez
Review published March 9, 2002
It's very difficult to pull off a successful sex comedy. It may be easy to make one, since there is a percentage of the movie-going population that will find anything sexual as hilarious, and the more perverted the better. The hard part is in making a sex comedy that is both profound as well as funny. The producers of 40 Days and 40 Nights must have known how difficult the road ahead of them would be since they spend the entire duration avoiding being profound or funny at all costs. In place of insight we get a wholly contrived plot and a nonstop barrage of references to erections and seminal fluid.
Josh Hartnett (O, Pearl Harbor) is clearly miscast as a young San Francisco 20-something man who can't get his mind off the girl with whom he has broken up, Nicole (Vinessa Shaw, Corky Romano). He spends much of his time trying to not think about Nicole by engaging in a marathon of sex with a plethora of women, yet is disturbed when hallucinations and inability to concentrate to matters at hand keeps his performance less than stellar in the sack. Now that Lent has arrived, Hartnett sees this as his opportunity to try to put Nicole behind him and he swears off any sexual activity for 40 days. Things get a little hard (in more ways than one), when potential relationships, mischievous co-workers and scheming ex-girlfriends are hell-bent in seeing that Josh doesn't succeed.
40 Days and 40 Nights is a repugnant and mind-numbing assault on one's intelligence that one would not expect from anything other than a sex comedy involving teenagers. There are so many things wrong with the film that it's hard to pin down what the main flaw, so I will mention just a few predominant ones. First, the plot itself of a man giving up sex in order to forget his ex-girlfriend makes absolutely no sense. If anything, a lack of sexual activity will only make a man remember the last relationship more and will only increase the fantasies and sexual hallucinations.
Then the film seems to forget the reason why the vow was made, when Hartnett meets Erica (Sossamon, A Knight's Tale), whom he likes so much that he begins to forget about Nicole. You'd think that having forgotten Nicole that he would have no need for the vow no longer, right? Oh no, he must continue the vow despite the fact that it seriously harms the relationship he has with Erica and now he has increased the amount of women he spends time regretting a break-up with from one to two. Well, perhaps Hartnett is devoutly religious and considers a vow made for Lent as a holy pact, but it's all a phony facade from a man who never goes to church and who can only make confessions to his brother who isn't even a real priest. Things get worse when the ex-girlfriend enters the scene again and he sees her in a new and unsatisfactory light. Now he no longer will dote on her for sure and so the vow should end, right? No, this is a stupid movie, so we must play along that the most important thing in Josh's life is fulfilling it.
As ludicrous as the plot is, there are still other major reasons the film would not have worked, even if it were believable in premise. Josh Hartnett may be a decent actor, at least as evidenced in Black Hawk Down, but he is no lead man for a romantic comedy. Then there is the unsavory looking supporting cast, all seemingly as morally bankrupt and perverted as him. After seeing this film, one gets the feeling that everyone in screenwriter Rob Perez's (Nobody) world must be undersexed porn-mongers who think about nothing but achieving orgasm all day long, even making frequent visits to the stalls in the bathroom at work to try to sate their needs.
And why not do that when there isn't anything to do at work anyway, since the co-workers are shown as having nothing better to do than try to get a rise out of Hartnett at every turn, spending countless hours concocting ways to get him to break his vow which they heard about from...the wanna-be priest brother??....no, the roommate they never meet??....I mean, Erica, the girl from the laundromat???...no, no they all must have read it from the internet!! Yes, the internet is full of information and of course no other information is more trafficked than the goings-on of one guy in San Francisco and his mildly idiotic vow which no one would have deemed worthy of posting on the net, much less have been able to find in such a short duration, assuming anyone actually cared about it.
40 Days and 40 Nights is one of those movies that I have to hold myself back from going overboard on, because it made me so angry at it's stupidity that only a never-ending rant might quench my bloodlust. Terrible in almost every way, the only vow worth keeping is the one you'll make to stay away from idiotic sex comedies. If you're smart you'll start that vow before viewing this one.
©2002 Vince Leo