40 Days and 40 Nights

Two men, Michael Lehmann (director) and Rob Perez (writer) are responsible for 40 Days and 40 Nights. The male dominated way of thinking permeates his mediocre sex comedy, coming through in things like the large amount of nudity, crude humor, constant focus on sex, and other, smaller things. This movie is probably a year or two too late, with the main characters working in a high flying dot-com with a huge office space in San Francisco, where all the women working there look like goddesses and dress in as little clothing as possible. The premise is razor-thin; Matt Sullivan (Josh Hartnett, Black Hawk Down, O) swears off any sort of sexual activity (including self-administered) for Lent. Matt is trying to work out relationship issues between his ex Nicole (Vinessa Shaw, Corky Romano, The Weight of Water). Nicole is recently engaged, which causes even more distress for Matt.

Matt throws his energies into building models, doing his work, and anything else to keep his mind of sex. Unbeknownst to him, his roommates and friends started a pool, betting on which day Matt would succumb to any sort of temptation. Matt is a manly man, so nobody (including at times himself) believes he can go the distance. Of course, partway into his voluntary fast he meets Erica (Shannyn Sossamon, A Knight's Tale), a highly attractive woman. They fall for each other, but Matt will not tell her about his fast. When Erica wants something more out of his relationship, Matt balks, causing a strain in their relationship. Erica eventually finds out about his vow, which causes even more strain. Matt hates this, because for once, he is having a great time with a woman, getting to know her as a person and not as an object of lust, and the woman wants sex. It's a gender role reversal.

It's pointless arguing morality in terms of a film's characters, since values amongst viewers differ widely. Still, 40 Days and 40 Nights is pretty low (aside from the fact that there are many people who undergo involuntary fasts of this nature longer than the allotted period here). Its presentation of women is not realistic, but more male fantasy-oriented, springing from the mind of Perez, or, from any male. Hartnett probably took this role to show that he can do comedy as well as drama, but here he comes off as dull, and does little more than grimace a lot. Sossamon is an appealing girlfriend-type character for Matt, however her reluctance to even associate with Matt unless they can do the nasty does make her character seem mean. She's nice and understanding in every other aspect, why not this one? The main thing that comes across is how shallow and insecure these people are. After all this criticism though, amazingly, 40 Days and 40 Nights is intermittently amusing. Matt is a decent guy trying to do the right thing, so he does come off as sympathetic. Lehmann (My Giant, The Truth About Cats and Dogs) has only superficial things to say about relationships, but does move the film along quickly. The jokes are crude, but some of them are actually amusing. Now, if it's because they truly are funny, or funny compared to the many unfunny jokes here is not clear.

Haro Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 31 minutes, Rated R for strong sexual content, nudity and language.

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