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40 Days and 40 Nights

Reviewed By Collin Souter
Posted 03/07/02 04:07:48

"And 94 minutes wasted"
1 stars (Total Crap)

I had to challenge myself once again. Could I do it? Could I sit through a contemporary romantic comedy starring the astoundingly talentless Josh Hartnett? Recently, I made it through 10 of the worst movies of all time, all of them starring pop stars, but this would be different. This would be a movie of its time and its time is now! The hip, stupid kids would be love it. The marketing geniuses geared this movie towards the 18-24 e-crowd. Idiots with cell phones at Dave Matthews Band concerts would be quoting it verbatim all year round. Sitting through this wouldn’t be easy. This time, I would not be able to laugh lovingly at out-of-date hairstyles or marvel at the tacky fashion rags. No, this time, I would not only have to suffer through Josh Hartnett, I would have to try and relate to this. Could I do it?

We were talking 94 minutes here. 94 minutes and it would be over, a challenge met. I looked myself over in the mirror beforehand to see if I had that spark, that eye of the tiger I once had before I popped in the “Cool As Ice” video several weeks back. Could I look the demonic Hell-beast of a warlord with the boxing gloves of everlasting pain in the eyes and give him the finger? Could I look Osama bin Lucifer in his evil eyes, pound my chest and shout “Bring it on, pussy”? Did I still have what it takes to make it through another Josh Hartnett movie? Oh, I know what you’re thinking: He was in “Black Hawk Down” and you liked that. Listen to me. Nobody was actually in “Black Hawk Down.” Certain actors stood at their right place in “Black Hawk Down,” but there wasn’t actually anybody in that movie. Especially not Josh Hartnett.

Anyway… Neither the sounds of heavy gunfire nor the chopping of limbs would be able to distract me this time. Now it was just him and me. Just me and the stupid erection movie. Oh, yeah, I guess I better get to the storyline. Josh Hartnett plays Matt Sullivan (yawn!), a computer guy who has one of those dream jobs you only see in Hollywood movies. He works for a dot.com, makes money at it and is constantly surrounded by hot women. Oh, and he has a boss (Griffin Dunne) who understands him.

Matt has a problem: Every time he has sex with a woman, he has haunting visions of a black hole opening up in his ceiling, something having to do with his ex-girlfriend of six months, Nicole (Vinessa Shaw). Inspired by his celibate brother in the priesthood, Matt challenges himself to avoid sexual contact, either with a woman or with himself, for 40 days and 40 nights, kinda like that whole Lent thing. Matt has another problem: He is played by Josh Hartnett. So far, so…so not good.

So, all of Matt’s friends find out and, of course, they start placing their bets as to when Matt will crack, grab the Vaseline and summon the vomiting cobra. Enter Erica Sutton, a spunky little number who meets Matt at a laundromat and becomes instantly charmed by him, EVEN THOUGH HE SAYS NOTHING! Matt and Erica eventually form a friendship and begin dating, she unaware of his self-inflicted predicament. One night, they go out to eat and, low and be-f***ing-hold!, Matt’s ex, Nicole, shows up there with her new boyfriend. Nicole, who somehow found out about Matt’s challenge, brings it up in front of him and Erica. Erica storms out of the restaurant accusing Matt of being a dishonest person, and Matt tries to win her back. By the way, all of the above happens in the FIRST 25 MINUTES!

The pain was just setting in. Already, in this span of time, I witnessed just how low the movie would sink for a laugh. For example, at the point in the story where Matt cleans all the porn out of his apartment so as to keep from masturbating, director Michael Lehmann chooses to play the INXS song “New Sensation.” (The lead singer of that great band, Michael Hutchence, you may not know, allegedly died during self-gratification.) Also, why does Matt remove vegetable oil from his cupboards during this sequence? Do men actually use that? Did I miss an issue of Maxim? Furthermore, how pathetic is it that screenwriter Robert Perez tries to get in a semen gag, a la “There’s Something About Mary,” whereby Matt tries to convince his hot date that he didn’t fake an orgasm? What does he try and do? Spill White-Out on himself. Oh, lord of Christ, how I hate this movie.

Now, I’m not the least bit surprised at how little this movie knows about women, but what it doesn’t know about men just astounds me. First of all, men don’t use vegetable oil for anything except starting a grease fire when trying to cook macaroni and cheese. Second of all, men start to smoke, hallucinate naked women everywhere and swear uncontrollably if they don’t have at themselves after six days…not 26 days! Six days. I swear, at the 21-day mark this guy hadn’t changed character one bit. Finally, a man ALWAYS knows when he has an erection. No matter what. He doesn’t need his co-workers to point it out to him. Remember the book “Then Again, Maybe I Won't,” by Judy Blume? That shit was real and it stays with us. It stays with every man forever!

I wanted to throw used condoms at the screen during this movie. I wanted to run screaming. I swear I grew a seething hatred for the romantic comedy genre, a genre I once loved and treasured thanks to the likes of Billy Wilder, Woody Allen and John Patrick Shanley. When did this genre turn so clueless, so witless and mind-numbing? “The Bachelor?” “Kate and Leopold?” “Someone Like You?” This crap passes? Why do screenwriters demean women in these movies by having them find these lunk-headed doofuses so attractive? Were it not for the challenge I bestowed upon myself, I would have ran to my car and blasted Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” just to remind myself of the great Ted Demme movie, “Beautiful Girls.” And I hate Neil Diamond.

Finally, it ended. I walked out to my car not proud of myself for having met the challenge of sitting through a Josh Hartnett movie, but ashamed. I drove home that snowy Saturday afternoon and found my girlfriend, Nikki, waiting for me at my house with dinner and a bottle of wine. I didn’t expect this and she had no idea I went to the movies, but this wonderful gesture started to make me feel rewarded for my ridiculous efforts. And it reminded me of a line from an almost-great romantic comedy with Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt where he says to her, “You make me want to be a better man.”

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