“One – you can’t do it. You just can’t. This isn’t a personal attack towards you, I’m just saying that no man can do it, it goes against nature. The male was biologically designed to spread his seed. You’re gonna piss off the seeds, Matt! It goes against science! You wanna be the guy who goes against science?”
In 1988, director Michael Lehman brought us Heathers, one of the great, all time classic black comedies so ballsy it could never get made our current post 9/11 and Columbine culture. Then something happened to him and began to spit out tepid, careful comedies like Hudson Hawk and The Truth about Cats and Dogs. 40 Days and 40 Nights taps into the abstaining-from-sex-and-keeping-the-reason-from-one’s-potential- mate premise Judd Apatow mastered with the far superior 40 Year Old Virgin.
Matt (Josh Harnett) is reeling from heartbreak after longtime girlfriend Nicole (Vinessa Shaw) breaks up with him. He begins a series of one night stands to deal with the pain, but every time he ends up in bed with another beautiful babe, he starts thinking of Nicole and suffers anxiety attacks. He seeks the advice of his brother, a priest in training, and somehow decides to give up all forms of sex, even kissing or masturbation, for the 40 days of Lent.
As the days of abstinence pass, Matt is sorely tempted by seemingly every hot woman on the planet coming on to him. His best friends, who fall in the category of friends one would never really have as friends, start an international betting pool against him completing his 40 day celibacy. In the midst of this he meets his true love, Erika (Shannyn Sossamon) and she becomes the greatest challenge of all to his sex free goal.
The initial concept is charming and, even though Josh Harnett shows very little range as an actor, there is a genuine chemistry between Shannyn Sossamon and him. The premise of abstinence to get over the psycho- sexual issues of heart break is interesting, but the orchestration of this conceit is crude and heavy handed. Harnett terribly overacts the sexual frustration. The idea of the betting pool completely rips you out of any reality and throws you into a sitcom logic. The supporting male characters are simply repulsive and misogynistic. The supporting female characters are written more like male fantasy stereotypes fresh off late night Skinemax soft porn… with the exception of Erika’s wise best friend, Sam (Maggie Gyllenhaal), because Gyllenhaal simply is incapable of being sexy.
And what is up with Josh Harnett’s haircut in this? I realize he just finished Black Hawk Down and was sporting a soldier’s cut in that film, but it ends up looking something like a bowl cut on a Special Ed student here. Between the goofy ‘do and sporting a unibrow, Josh doesn’t exactly look like the sex magnet he’s supposed to be.
There is a great deal of eye candy for the boys via an abundance of tits and ass in 40 Days and 40 Nights. There is a wonderful walk downtown where all the women are topless or nude and even an ocean of boobs Matt dives into during a feverish sex dream near the end. Strangely enough, all of this visual titillation (pun intended) never really feels sexy, just crass and clumsy. In spite of the R rated language and nudity, this youth sex comedy somehow feels like a must see for those creepy abstinence teens.
40 Days and 40 Nights, is presented via a VC-1 codec, in 1080p and 1.78:1 running an average 25 Mbps. Even as a Lionsgate catalog release, this is simply a shoddy transfer. The colors are muddy, the blacks crushed, skin tones unnatural and the film is full of dirt flecks and occasional scratches. Compression artifacts abound in this release, everything from haloing to pixilation. Overall the picture is slightly better than an upconverted standard def DVD. This is easily a candidate for the worst Blu-ray transfer this year. Perhaps Lionsgate gave up quality transfers for Lent.
The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is certainly a step up from the video, but not very immersive in the surround arena. The dialog is crisp and clear and the music soundtrack takes full advantage of the DTS-HD. SFX, music and dialog mix are balanced and natural sounding.
The audio commentary with Michael Lehmann, producer Michael London and screenwriter Robert Perez is dry and technical. Other than Perez’s real life experiences of going celibate and how they informed the script, this is dull and a good example of how not to do a commentary.
Original Theatrical Trailer (HD, DTS 2.0). Somehow they managed to screw up the aspect ratio on this lone “special” feature.
I found 40 Days and 40 Nights watchable, if immediately forgettable. There are a handful of laughs and even a semi-believable romance for the romcom crowd. Shannyn Sossamon is lovely and charismatic, the dialog sometimes approaches clever and Lehman keeps the camera moving in a lively fashion. If you can get past the unbelievable sexcapades and the creepiness of friends and coworkers obsessing over one another’s genitalia, it is light escapism. Rent, don’t own.
“And two, are you out of your f**king mind? You’re the guy who can’t finish a sandwich; you think you can go 40 days?”