Worth A Look: 15.31%
Pretty Bad: 19.39%
Total Crap: 26.53%
7 reviews, 56 user ratings
|40 Days and 40 Nights
by Erik Childress
I suppose we can thank both Seinfeld and There’s Something About Mary for this one. Everyone remembers the episode where Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer each make a wager on who can hold out the longest without enacting the art of self-gratification. The Farrelly Bros. then helped paved the way for fluids to be shown on the big screen and used for screwball comedy. 40 Days and 40 Nights blends the ideas for these concepts, but never has the foresight to create any funny new ideas for itself, the characters or the situations. Not since Sterling Hayden gave his “precious bodily” speech in Dr. Strangelove, have I ever seen a film so revolved around fluids. There are jokes about fluids, about faking fluids, looking for fluids and talking about fluids. It’s just a shame that someone wasted their fluids creating a number of the people responsible for this absolute mess.This fluid milkshake written by first-time screenwriter Rob Perez stars the eternally squinty Josh Hartnett as Matt Sullivan, a handsome dot-commer who still isn’t over his last girlfriend, Nicole (Vinessa Shaw). So stressed out is he that he’s constantly talking about black holes and seeing cracks in the ceiling as he’s making love to one of his several latest rebound gals. His problem isn’t related to his libido standing up to fight, but it tends to not be able to finish the battle.
"A Flacid Waste of Comic Possibilities"
Believing the problem is the anxiety he still feels about Nicole, Matt makes a vow to his priest brother to swear off sex and all sex-related activity as this will somehow make him forget about his ex. Perhaps a stretch of twisted logic, especially since he never considers that a little build-up should certainly make it easier to push out the fluids during his next tryst.
This comes (no pun intended) sooner than he thinks when he meets Erica (Shannyn Sossamon) in the ten-minute span that we’ve already jumped from Day 1 to Day 11. Most everyone in the audience should be ready to expect that Matt will hide his vow of celibacy from her, thus leading to the eventual break-up scene with big words like “honesty” and “lies” thrown around, before the storm calms and everyone goes home happy. But the script throws us a curvature by getting this awkward cliché out of the way early and then proceeds to do it over and over again. It’s not often that a film is able to create its own cliché during such a scant running time, but Matt and Erica’s relationship makes that of George Steinbrenner and Billy Martin seem like a Golden Anniversary.
There are so many missed opportunities for this high concept and so much wrong with what made it to the final print. The film makes so many missteps and is stuck in such a dead zone of bland setups, that its only a matter of time before you know the humor is just leading up to moments that involve Viagra mickeys and giant erections trying to poke through pant fabric. Those who laughed at the dissolve transition of a woman’s breast to a snowy mountaintop in Brotherhood of the Wolf will be longing for it after witnessing the laughless fantasy sequence involving Hartnett flying over the hills alive with the sound of lactating. Not a single scene in the movie hits the funny bone like the moment Seinfeld’s Kramer announces “I’M OUT!” (of “the contest”) and then looking exhausted.
Director Michael Lehmann (Heathers, The Truth About Cats & Dogs) makes no effort whatsoever to milk the obvious comic possibilities or statements about sex just frigidly lying there on the screen waiting to be taken advantage of. Why not invoke any jokes about religion and the parallels between Lenten sacrifice and the natural human instincts that are unnatural to deny? Even when the film tries to get serious in Matt and Erica by finally addressing the interesting question of “what can two people do with each other when sex is no longer an option” it feels more like great foreplay prior to the girl buttoning up and walking out the door.
The film doesn’t seem to have any clue of what its actually about and keeps going back to the potential interference involved by fellow colleagues trying to win a growing internet pool based on the vow. Not even this is maxed out for comic potential (the wagers in Rat Race were far funnier) and if the film insists on using the bet as their piece de la resistance for comedy, then why does this aspect end in such an anti-climactic way.
Josh Hartnett is the latest example of how looks over talent will win out every time in Hollywood. This guy can’t even fall down convincingly, a task he manages to accomplish four times in the film. Even with lackluster material like this, imagine someone like Ben Stiller in the role for a moment who can bring the funny with just a single look. Shannyn Sossamon (whom I absolutely abhorred in A Knight’s Tale) does show off some screen presence here. Despite her strikingly beautiful looks, there seems to be an intelligence lurking there just beneath the exterior, but keeps getting pushed back by the stupidity of the people she surrounds herself with. Paulo Costanzo (Road Trip, Josie and the Pussycats) is on hand as Hartnett’s roommate to provide a few decent laughs.
The one original scene in the film also proves to be rather erotic. Without giving it away, it’s ironic how Sossamon shared this eerily similar exchange with Heath Ledger in A Knight’s Tale.
Shannyn: “A flower is only as good as its pedals, don’t you think?”
Heath: “A flower is good for nothing.”
Shannyn: “Oh really?”
Heath: “You can’t eat a flower. A flower doesn’t keep you warm.”
Shannyn[/b : “And a rose never knocked a man of a horse either, did it?”
Heath: “You’re just a silly girl, aren’t you?”
Shannyn: “Better a silly girl with a flower than a silly boy with a horse and a stick.”This entendre-infested dialogue is brought to life here in a film that didn’t deserve such a tender scene. Scattered about like flower pedals desperately searching for its stem, 40 Days and 40 Nights moves from scene-to-scene with the expedient result of someone who shuffled up the editor’s scene cards and tossed out all the good stuff and the central point. Virgin screenwriter Rob Perez may remember this title as the first time he got a script produced, but I doubt it will be memorable enough to warrant another phone call. This is definitely one film you’re better off faking you have seen so you can just get some sleep instead.
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originally posted: 03/01/02 16:36:46