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The two years between 1999 and 2001 were like a factory production line with one American college movie after another being made. They were all spurred on by the worldwide success of sleeper movie American Pie, hoping to cash in on the genre. However, most of the bandwagon jumpers were instantly forgettable and gradually the number of releases died down. That was until this year and the release of 40 Days and 40 Nights. Its not fair to tag this as a college gross out movie, but there is no denying that a lot of the inspiration behind the movie has to be credited to American Pie. So were audiences refreshed enough to take an interest in the movie? Well the answer was not really! The film certainly didn’t impress when released in cinemas earlier this year. However, with the release of the region two DVD the film has a chance to impress casual film buffs.  

40 Days and 40 Nights
Matt Sullivan (Josh Hartnett) is a twenty something web designer who is having relationship problems. After the split with his ex-girlfriend Nicole (Vinessa Shaw), Matt goes on a sex binge with the aim of forgetting about her. His motives for dating women are purely for sexual reasons, but when it comes to performing in the bedroom he starts having hallucinations which spoil the intimate moment. Matt believes that the hallucinations are linked to Nicole and this inspires some deep thoughts about his motives for dating. He realises that his life is a mess and turns to the most unlikely quarter for help, the church!

Matt finds that the local priest , who happens to be his brother doesn’t really listen to his confessions. Obviously the priest knows his brother well and doesn’t believe that he can change. This makes Matt more determined and inspires him to give up sex for lent. The vow means that Matt must give up all kissing, foreplay and self-gratification for 40 days and 40 nights. The first few days prove to be hard, but just as Matt is getting used to the hardship he meets Erica (Shannyn Sossamon). The pair meet at the local laundrette and at first Matt snubs the advances from the attractive woman. Gradually he finds himself being drawn to her irresistible charm and the couple start dating.

Like the priest, Matt’s flatmate Ryan (Paulo Costanzo) is also sceptical about Matt’s staying power, and takes every opportunity to tell him so. In his hour of need (well 40 days!) Matt needs some encouragement from his peers, but as he painfully finds out, no one believes he can last the distance. In fact his friends at work are so convinced he will relent that they start placing bets on what day he will cave in. Erica is unaware of Matt’s vow and starts wondering whether or not he is attracted to her. The rest of the film deals with Matt’s struggle to stay true to his vow without ruining his relationship with Erica.

40 Days and 40 Nights
I missed the film at the cinema so was keen to catch up with it on DVD. I am a huge fan of the American Pie franchise, so was tentatively looking forward to 40 Days and 40 Nights. However, sadly within half an hour of watching the film it became apparent that it wasn’t going to live up to the high standards set by American Pie. A lot of the jokes are rehashed and offer nothing original. The subject matter that director Michael Lehmann (Hudson Hawk and Airheads) deals with has huge potential. The fact that the movie revolves around more mature characters then American Pie should have meant that the film’s storyline was fresh. The director obviously wanted to combine the comic moments with sentimental issues, so that the movie appealed to a greater audience. Unfortunately the movie doesn’t quite make the grade on both counts. The film is by no means a failure. It has some amusing moments, but then again the number of embarrassing (and simply not funny) scenes are in the ascendancy. The romantic elements also have promising moments, but the director then goes and spoils it by introducing some cringe-worthy scenes (watch out for the flower scene!).

Josh Hartnett has become one of the hottest properties in Hollywood, but that success has been largely due to his performances in action movies. It was only a matter of time before he branched out, but Josh if I were you I would stick to what you do best. He doesn’t have the comic skills, timing and screen presence to play the lead in a comedy movie and the film suffers because of this. 40 Days and 40 Nights is the perfect example of a Saturday Night rental flick. Its entertaining enough, but won’t have you coming back for multiple viewings.

40 Days and 40 Nights
The movie is presented in its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, and is another fine effort from Universal. This winter has seen a number of releases from the studio and most of them have been of the highest standard. Due to the nature of this film there is not an awful lot to test this transfer, but everything that is thrown at it gets dealt with proficiently. Colour reproduction is spot on and the flesh tones are also realistic. Black levels are also solid throughout. Having only been released this year the transfer detail is superb as would be expected. Sometimes new transfers can appear a little too soft, this transfer looks spot on.  There appeared to be no damage to the print and the grain levels have been kept to a minimum. Compression artefacts are also no-existent and thankfully there are no edge enhancements visible. This transfer is not quite reference quality, but there is little to grumble about.

Universal have provided two soundtracks with this release. As well as an English Dolby Digital 5.1 track, there is also a Hungarian equivalent, which is a little surprising. Normally region two releases have more universal languages like French or German. Anyone know if the movie was a success in Hungary then? The movie has got quite an active musical soundtrack which excels this track above the normal run of the mill comedy. The musical score often finds its way to the rears which is pleasant change. However, this is by no means a full surround experience. Dialogue is also reproduced clearly through the front speakers. This is not a bad effort and probably better than I would expected. Subtitles are provided in seven different languages.

Sadly the extras section is a little sparse with this DVD release. There are only a couple of extras on offer with the screen specific audio commentary being the main selling point. The commentary is with director Michael Lehmann, producer Michael London and screenwriter Robert Perez. The commentary is very detailed with the commentators leaving no detail unexplored. However, the commentary is also quite dull as well. Considering the nature of the movie I was expecting some fun and jokes from this commentary, but sadly the speakers seem keen to give a serious accompaniment to the movie. A commentary for real fans of the movie. Also found on the disc is a theatrical teaser trailer which lasts for about thirty seconds. The trailer shows Josh Hartnett’s character speaking about the vow he has taken. The trailer also features Shannyn Sossamon.

40 Days and 40 Nights
40 Days and 40 Nights passed through the cinemas relatively unnoticed and chances are its DVD release will be a quiet affair. On paper the film looks quite promising, but a lack of direction and unoriginal sketches leads to an uninspiring few hours. Its not bad, but there are better comedies out there to spend your money on this Christmas. This DVD release is a bit like the film, being very hit and miss. An impressive transfer is sorely let down by a lacklustre extras list. This release is worth checking out, but you are probably better off saving your money and making this a rental instead of a retail purchase.