40 Days and 40 Nights (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner31/05/2002

Two out of five stars
Running time: 95 mins

Disappointing comedy that tries to be both smutty sex comedy and sweet rom-com and ends up failing on both counts – it’s hard to believe that the same director once made Heathers.

Once upon a time, director Michael Lehmann could do no wrong. He made the cult high school comedy Heathers and almost single-handedly launched the careers of Christian Slater, Winona Ryder and…um…Shannon Docherty.

His second film, Meet the Applegates, about a family of giant cockroaches disguised as humans, wasn’t bad either (though it was actually made before Heathers and released later). And then he made the colossal flop that was Hudson Hawk and, frankly, he’s never been the same since. So, in a way, you can blame Bruce Willis for the fact that 40 Days and 40 Nights isn’t as good as it could have been.

The Plot

Josh Hartnett stars as Matt, a website designer who seems to do inordinately well when it comes to the laydeez. However, when he’s dumped by his girlfriend he comes to realise that he’s too dependent on sex and decides to give it up for Lent. Naturally, his understanding colleagues immediately start making a book on how long he’ll last.

And then, surprise surprise, he meets Erica (Shannyn Sossamon), who appears to be his ideal woman. So, frankly, quite why he doesn’t just say ‘Sod the vow’ there and then is anybody’s guess, but if he did that, you either wouldn’t have a movie or it would be a lot shorter and called ‘Three Days’.

Unsurprisingly, the film’s funniest moments are centred around the sneaky attempts by his various colleagues to win the bet by making him ‘crack’ on their chosen day, as well as Matt’s inevitable hallucinatory fantasies (e.g. seeing naked women everywhere) as he starts to crack up. However, one or two fairly good gags aside, the film itself doesn’t really deliver in terms of laughs-per-minute.

The Acting

Hartnett makes a sweet romantic lead, but it’s probably fair to say he’s miscast, as he never really seems comfortable in the role. Surprisingly, Shannyn Sossamon (who was so god-awful in A Knight’s Tale) turns out to be much better suited to modern-day roles and is actually pretty good here, though her ‘flower sex’ scene is ridiculous and should have been dropped.

The main problem is that the film asks us to feel sorry for someone for whom forty days without sex appears to be a very big deal – clearly, the film-makers didn’t think too carefully about their target audience…

Ultimately, then, 40 Days and 40 Nights is watchable and has its moments but isn’t nearly as good as it could have been. Wait for the video.

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Content updated: 17/10/2017 15:54

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