Review: '40 Days and 40 Nights' -- of idiocy
A sex comedy without comedy
(CNN) -- Michael Lehmann's "40 Days and 40 Nights" is described in Miramax's press kit as being "America's first sex comedy without sex," but it comes dangerously close to being America's first sex comedy without comedy.
If you don't think an attractive young man vowing abstinence during Lent is a side-splitting concept, you're out of luck. Lack of sexual release is the only "joke" in the movie unless you count Josh Hartnett, whose performance suggests a scientifically engineered crossbreeding of Richard Gere and wood paneling.
Hartnett's facial expressions run the gamut from "squinting" to "squinting with mouth hanging open," not that stronger acting chops would make any difference. This is a teen comedy posing as adult satire, with outrageously gorgeous cast members repeatedly flashing their undies and having bogus conversations about modern sexuality.
Screenwriter Robert Perez obviously thinks that repeating a silly premise 60 times in a row is the same thing as writing a story. But so may a lot of teen-agers, so, technically speaking, he may be right.
Hartnett plays Matt, an adorable San Francisco-based Web designer who's reeling from a bad breakup with his hot girlfriend, Nicole (Vinessa Shaw). Even though Matt and his horny roommate, Ryan (Paul Costanzo), can score with seriously attractive women without so much as breaking a sweat, all is not well.
Matt really cared about Nicole -- God knows why; the character is thoroughly despicable -- and he badly needs to pull himself together. He's even having performance problems when he beds new conquests.
Matt, whose brother also happens to be a priest, finally decides that he'll cure his problem by giving up sex of any sort during Lent. That means no intercourse, no rubbing against anyone and no masturbation. Just ignore the fact that having had rabbit-like premarital relations with anything that moves places him well beyond the teachings of the church. When some filmmakers need a reason to have young actresses prancing around half-naked (or, in some cases, completely naked) any strategy will suffice.
The gang at the Internet company for which Matt works can't believe he's swearing off all that taut flesh. They eagerly place bets on whether he can last 40 days, and design a Web site on which they track his progress. After a while, several female co-workers start enticing him, just to see if they can break his fast.
This is an office in which all the women are built like exotic dancers and wear thigh-high leather boots and miniskirts. Even Matt's boss (Griffin Dunne) is a sex-obsessed nincompoop.
Eventually, in order to make this seem like a romantic comedy, Matt falls in love with Erica (Shannyn Sossamon), a sweet young woman he meets at a laundromat. Rather than explain to Erica that he's taking a temporary break from hanky-panky, he turns and runs when she wants to kiss him.
Unfortunately Erica -- get this -- works for a company that locates pornographic Web sites and blocks them for concerned parents. She quickly discovers what Matt is up to, and acts offended for several scenes. Then she's not offended and everything's okay. Sossamon, as you may have guessed, is drop-dead gorgeous. But it's clear that Lisa Bonet didn't bother to trademark her pouty listlessness.
"40 Days and 40 Nights" isn't aggressively offensive. It's not like you're wallowing in mean-spirited drivel, as in "Bait" (2000) or "Tomcats" (2001). But it's drivel nonetheless, and hardly a step in the right direction. Unless you're at that awkward age at which you tape posters of people like Hartnett above your bed, you should just ignore it. You'll get another chance to see him run around in his underwear in due time.
There's a surprising amount of nudity in "40 Days and 40 Nights" and a lot of blunt language. Some filmgoers may also take offense at some of the priest-oriented gags.
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