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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Worse Yet To Come?
by Betty Jo Tucker

Although itís too early to pick the worst movie of 2002, I canít imagine another film ending up as being more deserving of that spot than 40 Days and 40 Nights. Current screen heart-throb Josh Hartnett stars in this juvenile romantic comedy as a employee who vows to give up any kind of sex during Lent. Still obsessing over the woman who dumped him, he believes a period of abstinence will help him regain his sexual power. Or something like that. While Iím not too clear about his motivation, Iím fairly certain filmmakers created this situation to showcase every erection/masturbation gag they could think of.

Hartnett, quite convincing in dramatic films like Pearl Harbor and O, lacks the finely-tuned timing required for effective comedy. I did, however, laugh at him in a scene where his sleeve caught on fire in a restaurant. Come to think of it, that had more to do with special effects than with Hartnettís talent for comedy. Still, heís just as handsome as ever here, and his deep, soothing voice almost won me over despite this acting limitation and the movieís one-joke plot emphasis. Hartnett also turns on plenty of charm in a "flowery" erotic encounter with Shannyn Sossamon (A Knightís Tale), who plays a down-to-earth beauty he meets in a laundromat. I found that one scene surprisingly artistic --- but it seems to belong in another, more serious, film.

The vow of abstinence made by Hartnettís character brings out the worst in everyone he knows. His roommate (Paulo Costanzo from Road Trip) and all his colleagues at work start betting on when he will break it. Women begin acting more sexy than ever around him, hoping to seduce him. His brother, whoís studying for the priesthood, tries to discourage him. His mother and father discuss their sexual positions in front of him at the dinner table. (Now do you believe me?)

Diirector Michael Lehmann (My Giant) and new screenwriter Rob Perez obviously wanted to push the envelope with this one --- and succeed they did. Raunchy dialogue and sexually explicit sequences overshadow the filmís slight hint that factors other than sex might also be important in human relationships.

40 Days and 40 Nights will probably find its audience among those many viewers who loved American Pie and Road Trip. As for me, I wish Iíd given up movies like this for Lent.

(Released by Miramax and rated "R" for strong sexual content, nudity, and language.)

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