Director:  Michael Lehmann 

Starring:  Josh Hartnett, Shannyn Sossamon, Vinessa Shaw

After a string of terrible relationships, a young man gives up sex for lent.

Pity poor Matt Sullivan (Josh Hartnett). He hasn't yet got over his last serious relationship, and it's causing him problems in the sack with the string of hot babes preventing him from becoming intimately re-acquainted with his mattress. Boo hoo. 

He hits on an idea that will allow him to re-evaluate his life and his relationships: he'll give up all sexual activity for forty days. His friends aren't supportive (in fact, it's not long before they're taking bets on when his celibate spell will break, and hatching various plots to hasten the ending). Matt's troubles don't really begin until he meets the woman of his dreams (Shannyn Sossamon). 

40 Days and 40 Nights is a patchy one-note comedy. It's not really sweet enough to be pigeonholed as a romantic comedy, and is probably too coy to satisfy a more laddish audience (there's a smattering of nudity, but precious little from any of the featured cast). Neither is it a film that will cheer fans of the director's early, edgier material (the pitch-black teen angst comedy Heathers, and the unfairly maligned Hudson Hawk), although it's not entirely surprising, coming, as it does, from the man who directed the student short film Beaver Gets a Boner

There's a spark or two of inspiration, but most of the film is pretty mundane. 40 Days and 40 Nights is set in San Francisco and, although the production only had a week shooting there (the rest of the film was shot in Vancouver), it certainly has a good sense of location. Hartnett is unimpressive (he doesn't seem at all comfortable during the film's more broadly comic scenes), but several of the other young leads give fine performances. If you haven't yet had an opportunity to see Shannon Sossamon (A Knight's Tale) or Maggie Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko), here's a good chance to catch them during their ascendancy to stardom. 

Universal's Region 2 disc is unremarkable. The average bitrate is 6.91Mbps. Apart from a very brief fantasy sequence near the beginning of the film, where Matt has his epiphany, the film is uniformly drab. Although ostensibly a studio film, the movie was shot on a tight budget. The transfer is presented at 1.85:1, with anamorphic enhancement. The audio mix is unadventurous, with undue prominence given to the numerous songs that sideline Rolfe Kent's score. It's a Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation (at 384kbps) that rarely taxes the rear speakers, and, apart from a couple of scenes where Matt's ceiling cracks, there's no call for any low-frequency bass support.

American teaser poster.The disc is supported with a commentary track from the director, writer Rob Perez and producer Michael London. The commentary is interesting, and well worth a listen. It gets off to a good start, as the contributors bitch about the four film and distribution company logo's at the beginning of the movie. They also have a few interesting things to say about licensing music tracks, and explain why Josh has three different haircuts in the film. The only other extra is a teaser trailer. There doesn't seem to be any reason why a short MTV-style making of featurette and some deleted scenes couldn't have been added (the filmmakers discuss a number of deleted scenes on the commentary track). It's also a shame that the UK disc doesn't sport the clever theatrical teaser poster artwork (shown left).












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