3 Stars
Year Released: 2002
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 91 minutes
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At last, a Hollywood sex comedy that can actually be called sexy. Bracingly raunchy at the start but going a bit soft toward the climax, “40 Days and 40 Nights” is a reasonably intelligent adult comedy nonetheless. It’s no “Bridget Jones’ Diary” and certainly no “High Fidelity,” but you won’t hate yourself in the morning either.
The all-important hook here is that Web designer Matt, played by the ubiquitous Josh Hartnett, has so much poontang flying at him from all directions that he is finally compelled to call it a day. 40 days, to be precise – as in, “No sex for Lent!” (You’ve seen the commercials, you’ve heard the line a hundred times.)
Hartnett, fresh from duty in “Pearl Harbor” and “Black Hawk Down,” rarely comes across as the brightest bulb in the chandelier, with his prettyboy looks and Spicolian voice. But Robert Perez’ script for “40 Days and 40 Nights” is smartly written enough that the actor gets to exhibit some snap, some personality. He’s never less than appealing (though his sex-mad predicament won’t evoke much symapthy from anyone who doesn’t happen to be a Hot Young Hollywood Actor, or maybe a Hot Young Studio Executive.) Hartnett is also blessed with strong support from Paulo Costanzo as his sharp-witted roommate, Griffin Dunne as his sexually frustrated boss, and Mary Gross and the great Barry Newman as his oversexed parents. Even Shannyn Sossamon, whose debut last year in “A Knight’s Tale” was something less than auspicious, is shown in good light as the funky ’round-the-way girl who catches Matt’s eye and severely tests his willpower.
Credibility can hardly be an issue here – again, too much sex would seem to be a problem faced more by Hot Young Hollywood Actors and less by the average Web geek. But never mind. Matt is resolute in his quest for virtue, however temporary; it’s the complications that result which end up leaving the viewer feeling a little used. While the foreplay is exciting, the film’s follow-through is typically overplotted and underamusing. Everyone on earth seems to betting on how long Matt’s vow will possibly last, to the expense of anything else in their lives – who has time for sex when you’re living on the Internet 24/7? (That means you too…and me, for that matter.) The pervasive Web obsession starts to appear gimmicky as the story wears on, and it’s painfully clear that pretty Josh and quirky Shannyn are fated to end up together. So while there are plenty of breasts on display, there’s little suspense.
Still, any romantic comedy that lacks Meg Ryan can’t be faulted too hard. The earth may not quite move, but “40 Days and 40 Nights” will get your rocks off well enough this weekend. Pity it can’t be more than a one-night stand.

Posted on March 1, 2002 in Reviews by

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