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Thursday, February 28, 2002

Anti climax

Movie: 40 Days and 40 Nights

Posted on Thu, Feb 28, 2002 at 4:00 AM

Our Rating: 1.00

Fresh from his starring role in "Black Hawk Down", in which he embodied the credo "Leave no man behind," Josh Hartnett takes the lead in "40 Days and 40 Nights", a loathsome so-called comedy that sees him struggling to leave every behind unmanned. That's the challenge for Hartnett's Matt Sullivan, a San Franciscan stud who decides that his only hope to grow out of his promiscuous ways is to give up all forms of sexual activity for Lent. This supposedly wacky agenda makes Matt a profitable curiosity to his opportunistic buddies, who erect (sorry) an international betting pool keyed to the idea that he'll crack (sorry again!) before the period of religious observance is up.

Matt's temporary chastity becomes a stumbling block to his developing relationship with Erica (Shannyn Sossamon), a self-impressed "cyber nanny" (she blocks porn sites for a living) he meets at the local laundromat. But the real impediment to Matt's success is his environment. In director Michael Lehmann's San Francisco, every woman comes to work dressed in a short skirt and/or fishnet stockings, ready to throw herself at the first available male. Structuring your film around the predicament that life simply offers too many opportunities to have sex is bound to alienate audiences of a few different breeds -- like Quakers and all of my old college roommates.

Everyone in this film is a walking worst-impulse except Matt, who strains toward virtue but has the mental capacity of fiberglass. At one point, he attempts to fake an orgasm by searching for a substance he can pass off as semen. His choice: Wite-Out. Gross-out sight gags pad the insipid script, which holds not one honest punch line but gets extended play out of the old penis-as-basketball-player metaphor.

"40 Days and 40 Nights" isn't merely coarse, misogynistic and blasphemous -- it's also fraudulent. By my calculation, the story encompasses at least 50 days' worth of activity. That's more than I signed on for, fellas. I want overtime pay.


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