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Featured Blu-ray review: 40 Days and 40 Nights

September 4th, 2011

40 Days and 40 Nights - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon

In 2001 Josh Harnett starred in two $100 million movies, Pearl Harbor and Black Hawk Down. At the time, there was a lot of talk that he was going to be the next big thing, or at least a solid A-lister. He's never returned to that level. 40 Days and 40 Nights was a minor hit worldwide; it made close to $100 million on a budget of just $17 million. Now that it's coming out on Blu-ray, is it worth checking out?

The Movie

The film begins with home movie footage of Matt Sullivan and Nicole, who seem like a happy couple, but when we pull back, we see that the happy times have ended and Matt is unable to get over the breakup. His plan so far is to sleep with as many women as possible, but every time he does he has a panic attack involving a black hole. To top it all off, he hears Nicole is getting engaged. That's when he decides to give up all forms of sexual gratification for lent. He will go 40 days and 40 nights without any form of sex, including foreplay, and even including going solo. His brother, a priest in training, and his friends respond to this in the way you would expect, by mocking him and setting up an office pool on when he will fail.

Because this is a romantic comedy, Matt meets the woman of his dreams, Erica. They begin dating, but of course there can be no physical activity. And there is another barrier to their relationship: Matt is still hung up on Nicole. As the days go on, he becomes more and more obsessed with sex, to the point of hallucination. And with a lot of people betting money on what date he will fail, a lot of people are trying to make him fail.

So that's the basic plot. Matt tries not to have sex with the woman he loves, while most everyone else tries to get women to have sex with him in order to win a bet. There are a lot of "sexy situations" intermingled with "comedic bits" and I'm using quotes there, because neither part works. (For instance, Parents talking about sex in front of their adult children is a cheap attempt at humor.) The basic setup has a lot of potential for humor and one could really see a great movie made from this premise. However, for that to be the case, they would need much better characters and dialogue that felt more natural. There were a few moments of realism here or there, but for the most part, this movie was no better than the average bad sitcom. As Matt gets closer and closer to his goal, we don't get any deeper insight into his character or relationships in general, we just move into farcical territory. Characters lack any real depth, and without that depth, there's no reason to care about them.

Even the parts of 40 Days and 40 Nights that do work only work in a half-hearted fashion. The premise had potential and one could argue that a similar one was used in an episode of Seinfeld called The Contest, or in The 40-Year Old Virgin. There are more laughs in the 22-minute episode of Seinfeld then there are in this entire movie. And you pick any one scene between Andy and Trish in The 40-Year Old Virgin and it will have more heart than this entire film.

The Extras

The only extra on the Blu-ray is an audio commentary by the director, Michael Lehmann; the producer, Michael London; and the screenwriter, Robert Perez. The technical presentation is mixed with the audio being quite well done, but the video is sometimes well below acceptable. It is a VC-1 codec, which tended to be used in HD-DVD, because it could get better results with a lower bitrate. This is not an issue with Blu-ray, and the results are very noticeable. Detail levels vary dramatically, even within a single scene. There are compression artifacts, pixilation, haloing, even flecks and other examples of print damage. The film is less than ten years old, so it certainly shouldn't look like this. In one scene a couple of characters are walking towards the camera when the level of detail noticeably dropped. It was distractingly bad. The audio is better with clear dialogue and quite a bit of ambient sound / music coming from the surround speakers. The music was quite important to the movie, almost to the point of overcompensating, but it would be unfair to hold that against the audio.

The Verdict

40 Days and 40 Nights is a mediocre romantic comedy that wastes a reasonable premise on cheap laughs and lazy attempts at titillation. The Blu-ray has very little in the way of extras, and I've seen some upscaled DVDs that have looked better. It is very cheap at just $9.99, but that's not enough of a selling point.

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Filed under: Video Review, 40 Days and 40 Nights