Published Dec 01, 2002This movie is so unrelentingly and unapologetically shallow from start to finish that I could almost admire its consistency if I hadn't had to actually sit through it. The ridiculous story has Hollywood's dreamboat-of-the-week Josh Hartnett as Matt, a web designer who is finding himself unable to let go of a failed relationship despite attempting to fill the void with meaningless sexual encounters. He decides to try a new approach and, in the spirit of Lent, commits to giving up sex and all things sexual for 40 days and 40 nights. This is portrayed as an Herculean task for the apparently irresistible Matt, so his annoying co-workers start up a betting pool to guess his breaking point. Complications invariably ensue when Matt meets the girl of his dreams Erica (Shannyn Sossamon) during his self-imposed celibacy. It's difficult to write seriously and critically about a movie as irredeemably stupid as this one. I feel like I've wasted enough of my life already watching the damn thing, but if I can make just one person reconsider their choice to see this film, then my task has an almost noble purpose.
40 Days and 40 Nights is the kind of movie that makes me depressed and angry, not just at the lacklustre state of a film industry that could waste so much time and money on this tripe, but also at the general state of an humanity that could produce the people who create, consume, and are reflected in this crap. The film offers an embarrassingly archaic take on gender relations, portraying a world where all men are slobbering idiots of the mere mention of sex, while women wield their sexuality like a brutal weapon in order to gain power. It seems to be written by someone who has an utter contempt for the human race, judging by its assembled cast of snide, money-grubbing, one-dimensional characters, apparently for the purpose of some comic relief that never materialises. All attempts by the writer and filmmaker set the film in the "hip and now" world to garner some cache with a younger audience are achingly transparent, with awkward hip-hop lingo and set after set of open-concept dot com offices thrown in. The director Michael Lehmann, who has never come close to his brilliant debut film Heathers, makes this film visually slick in the generic MTV kind of way that all teen movies nowadays resemble. His most interesting directorial move is to plagiarise Spike Lee's trademark dolly shot how sad is that? Josh Hartnett's considerable appeal is meant to carry this film, and while he's certainly not the worst actor of his generation, he has an uncanny knack for choosing strikingly bad projects (Pearl Harbor, Town and Country, Here on Earth) that may well serve to be his downfall. This movie, like so many others of its ilk, just should never have been made in the first place. Its mix of lowest common denominator attempts at humour and shamelessly cheesy romance should not appeal to any thinking creature.