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Quickies: 40 Blows

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If you're looking to give up a movie for Lent, choose this one.

Maybe it’s his unibrow, maybe it’s his widely reported devotion to his
family and high school girlfriend, or maybe I’m just getting old, but five
minutes into 40 Days and 40 Nights I found myself thinking, “What
would Josh Hartnett’s poor mother think?” I wanted to take him away from it
all — the evil ex, the casual sex, the macho-dorky co-workers and roommate,
the bad acting, the dirty director, the corny lines, the so-five-years-ago
dot-com scene, the gross-out sperm jokes . . .

Josh Hartnett plays Matt Sullivan, a twenty-something San Francisco
dot-commer who is inspired by his brother (a priest-in-training) to give up
sex for lent (including masturbation and anything “sex-like,” such as
kissing). He’s trying to get over his ex-girlfriend, whom he still thinks of
when he masturbates. (See what I mean? A rare bird.) It’s a decent premise
for a movie (the self-serving and self-congratulatory aspects of sacrifice,
etc.), and it’s an admirable goal for Lent, but both are wasted here.

It turns out that Matt and Erica (the adorable temptation he meets at the
Laundromat on day three of Lent) are the last two people on Earth to take sex
seriously. When Matt’s co-workers discover his vow of chastity, they build a
website to document it and collect bets on when he’ll cave — and whether
he’ll cave solo or with Erica. (They also steal his “I’m giving up sex” line
to pick up chicks.) Matt’s parents treat sex like rehab for his dad’s hip
operation. His brother John (Adam Trese), the priest-in-training, takes sex
so lightly that he snogs a nun, despite his own more permanent chastity vow.
Matt, meanwhile, takes sex so seriously that immediately after every
one night stand, he hallucinates a black hole in his ceiling. (Not to
mention the serious detox shakes and clammy skin he gets from his bout with
celibacy.) And Erica works for CyberNanny, one of those dot-coms that
protects kids from porn. Serious stuff.

The problem is that the movie can’t decide whether to be a cute romantic
comedy with abstinence as a plot twist, or a madcap, lowbrow sex comedy with
abstinence as the butt of the joke. If you squint just right, you can enjoy
a bit of each — but who wants to squint when Josh Hartnett’s on the big
screen? It’s almost as if Hartnett and his co-star Shannyn Sossamon (playing
the adorable Erica) are
trying to film a romantic comedy when Hartnett’s drunk college buddies show
up for the ride (with a team of Playboy Playmates as extras). Thus
the movie careens from one scene where a used condom takes flight and sticks
to a mirror, to another where Erica has an orgasm just from the petals of a
white flower held by Matt in all the right places. It’s kind of like seeing
a porn star roll over after a hardcore butt sex scene and asking to be held.