Review: ’40 Days and 40 Nights’

Here’s a better attempt at the classic sex comedy set in this day and age. What makes it classic is that there’s sex in this sex comedy, lots of it, and gratuitous nudity, too!

Matt Sullivan (Josh Hartnett) is a pretty boy with little trouble attracting the ladies. The problem: he can’t perform because he still hung up on his last girlfriend, a superficial golddigger named Nicole (Vinessa Shaw). His solution: since his brother John (Adam Trese) is a priest and has taken a vow of celibacy, Matt thinks he should be able to do the same for Lent, a mere forty days and forty nights: no sex, no touching, not even himself. As fate would have it, he meets a girl (Shannyn Sossamon) that could make him forget Nicole, but it’s all his buddies on the internet that turns out to be the real danger. There’s a pool going to see how long Matt can make it, and as the cash adds up, the temptation to try and trick Matt break his vow proves to tempting to resist.

The premise is simple, but the potential complications get out of hand very quickly, especially when given a little help. Set in San Francisco after the dot-com bust, several small internet companies have enough capital and business to stay running and are manned by twenty-somethings that go in to work in t-shirts and jeans. In their world, casual sex is fine as long as there’s a condom involved, and no one seems to have any real inhibitions: it’s a college campus without the college. While it may not be the most correct representation of young adults in the new millennium, it seems right, and since partners aren’t hard to find, finding the right one has become paramount so they can stop playing ‘the game.’

In addition to watching Matt suffer through temptation and ridicule, a lot of stereotypes are addressed. The film deals with what’s expected in starting a relationship, what those expectations mean, and human nature in general. None of this is surprising since it comes from Michael Lehmann, director of “The Truth About Cats and Dogs” and the cult-hit “Heathers” (we’ll forgive him “Hudson Hawk” for the moment.) On top of the tools of the trade he already employs, Lehmann goes a step further in showing us Matt’s dreams and delusions as he nears the final days of the vow; no one can say he didn’t make an R-rated film on purpose.

Josh Hartnett is easily the weakest comedic actor of the group, which is fine since he’s the straight man (no pun intended.) Shannyn Sossamon is also there as the voice of reason and hope, so she’s not tasked with being funny, either. Paulo Costanzo is held responsible for leading the rest of the film’s hopeless men in making Harnett’s character miserable at their own happy whims, although the could have cast a better vamp than Vinessa Shaw as Nicole. Other than these players, you’ll probably remember Michael C. Maronna as The Bagel Guy, because everyone knows The Bagel Guy knows everything.

Not the funniest film ever on this subject, but a nice statement and satire on relationships today. Like “The Truth About Cats & Dogs,” this film is a comedy with a moral, giving it much more support than a film like the ill-fated “Tomcats” and ending up a lot funnier as a result. Until they make another “Animal House,” this will help fill the void, although the upcoming “National Lampoon’s Van Wilder” may try to raise the bar once again. Here’s hoping!

(a 2 skull recommendation out of 4)

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