It's hard to imagine now, but Michael Lehmann was once the hottest new director in town. His evil high-school satire Heathers hit all the right buttons. Then Meet The Applegates, - a surreal nuclear family skit which was actually his debut, but came out second due to legal wrangles - confirmed his status as a dark new comic genius. We could only imagine what delights his unseen short film Beaver Gets A Boner held.
Sadly, the disastrous Hudson Hawk seems to have irreparably damaged his originality, and since then he's stuck to offbeat but largely safe mainstream comedies, like his amiable crossover hit The Truth About Cats And Dogs. And that's pretty much what to expect from 40 Days And 40 Nights, a surprisingly raunchy sex comedy that falls between two stools: a little too thoughtful and human to appeal to the Road Trip crowd, but way too crass for people who care about the vagaries of human relationships.
The doe-eyed Josh Hartnett plays Matt, a serial womaniser who becomes disgusted with his own dependence on the female sex. So much so that he decides to take a vow of celibacy, swearing to refrain from all forms of sex (including that of the hand variety) for 40 days and 40 nights. This being a romantic comedy, of course, Matt promptly meets a beautiful woman, Erica (Shannyn Sossamon), and a strange, non-sexual courtship ensues.
That's the thoughtful part. But the further Matt goes in his admirable endeavour, the more his friends are intrigued, and pretty soon a sweepstake is forming. It starts in the office, where the women try to seduce him to win their bets, and ends up, inevitably, on the internet - where, to his horror, it's spotted by Erica. The stage is set for the standard will-they, won't-they comedy, and though it does contain some unexpectedly dark surprises, the result is disappointingly average.
A good-looking couple set sparks that fail to catch fire. Despite a neat premise and a good supporting cast, 40 Days And 40 Nights is simply far too nice for its own good.