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40 Days and 40 Nights

movie reviewmovie review out of 4

*Also starring: Paolo Costanzo, Chris Gauthier, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dylan Neal

Review by Steve Rhodes
2½ stars out of 4

Working from Rob Perez's sharp script, director Michael Lehmann tries hard in 40 DAYS AND 40 NIGHTS to create a WHEN HARRY MET SALLY... tale with a THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY ambiance. He probably would have succeeded if it hadn't been for the casting of the leads, Josh Hartnett (PEARL HARBOR) and Shannyn Sossamon (A KNIGHT'S TALE), two beautiful but bland actors. The movie's jokes work in spite of them, not because of them.

The cute plot concerns a guy, Matt Sullivan (Hartnett), having so much trouble getting over his ex-girlfriend, Nicole (Vinessa Shaw), that he decides to give up sexual activity of any kind for Lent. Of course, the women at his company try to attack him at every water cooler in order to break his vow. One even spreads her legs on the company's photocopy machine in front of him and writes her phone number on the copy of her panties. Meanwhile, the men in his office spend their time running a betting pool on the Internet that attracts gamblers from as far away as Bangladesh. About the only thing his co-workers don't try is putting an apple pie on his desk. (One assumes that the office must be in a special sexual-harassment-lawsuit-free zone of San Francisco.)

Thanks to the loan of a fabric softener sheet at a local coin laundry, Matt meets Erica (Sossamon). Initially Erica, who wears nerdy, boyish clothes, seems like the perfect platonic playmate. Matt's first indication that his celibacy with her may prove difficult comes when he asks her occupation. She's a cybernanny who spends her entire day surfing porno sites in order to figure out which ones should be labeled as off-limits to kids.

As Matt comes down the home stretch, he starts to shake like a heroin junkie going cold turkey. As the big day gets closer, it's not clear whether he'll make it or not. The movie itself almost makes it. There are some funny moments, but Hartnett and Sossamon are no Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan, not even close. Looks are not enough.

40 DAYS AND 40 NIGHTS runs 1:33. It is rated R for "strong sexual content, nudity and language" and would be acceptable for older teenagers.

Copyright 2002 Steve Rhodes

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