I really don't know why I signed myself up for '40 Days and 40 Nights.' I saw the flick some time ago when it first hit DVD, and I was thoroughly unimpressed. Yes, there's plenty of eye candy (for us guys, at least), but beyond that, I wonder if there's a single positive to be found in this film. It does feature one of the early starring roles for Josh Hartnett, but that alone isn't enough to make an otherwise unwatchable film watchable.
The real insult of '40 Days and 40 Nights' is that it could have been a much better film, if it had actually tried. The premise of a promiscuous young man (Hartnett) giving up sexual contact (including self gratification) for Lent, only to have it backfire in his face? It's solid enough. The fact that said young man made such a commitment due to extreme mental anguish caused by a breakup with his ex (Vinessa Shaw)? Sounds good! Throw in the fact that as soon as the vow is made, what may very well be the perfect girl (Shannyn Sossamon) stumbles into his life, and now he has to find a way to juggle the mutual feelings with the secretive pact? That's a film right there!
So how does '40 Days and 40 Nights' blow it? The bet. A man giving up his bread and butter, the opposite sex altogether? This opens the door for so many opportunities, but instead, the film focuses on the stupidest of things, the idea that everyone around him will form a pool betting on when he'll eventually crack. Here, instead of providing testing situations on top of an already difficult task, reality and believability are lost.
The initial way in which Hartnett's Matt character handles the relationship with Sossamon's all-too-perfect temptress works. It functions in the form of an awkward meet-cute that isn't so cute, and progresses somewhat naturally, albeit oddly. Then, when sex enters the equation, the entire relationship turns into a farce, a wholly unbelievable disaster of ridiculous proportions, with zany, impractical situations, and all-too-predictable potholes along the way. Once the two characters meet, one can almost plot out their entire inter-personal trajectory through the rest of the film. It's just too silly. Additionally, the introduction of the beautiful Sossamon eliminates the best portion of the film, the mental anguish and general well being of a young man who has been pushed too far and has stayed stuck in the past too long. His dynamic that initially worked now doesn't.
As '40 Days and 40 Nights' progresses, we see a satyr go into a withdrawal of sorts that is wholly unbelievable, and makes for some borderline unbearable sequences. An entire office obsessed with the going abouts of one's genitalia, both straight male and female? Odd. Very, very odd. The quasi-masturbation/temptation scenes? Difficult to watch, they're so poorly thought out and generally unfunny. The way in which Shaw's heartbreaker/ice queen character changes on a dime should be considered wholly unbelievable, but the minute she reappears in the film, one instantly knows that she's going to be the newest obstacle in a road already borderline impossible to traverse.
Here's the thing: the abstaining from sex and keeping the reason from one's potential mate is a premise perfected in 'The 40 Year-Old Virgin.' In that film, there's no misogyny. In that film, characters interact on a more human level, rather than as just talking reproductive organs, no matter how obsessed someone may be. That's all '40 Days and 40 Nights' is. It's not a funny analyzation of relationships and the woes we put ourselves through in the mating ritual. It's just a bunch of talking dicks.
The Disc: Vital Stats
Lionsgate is the new distributor for '40 Days and 40 Nights,' releasing this Miramax property on Blu-ray on a Region A marked BD25 disc. There are about twelve minutes worth of pre-menu content (in addition to a minute's worth of company credits) that has to be fast-forwarded through at max speed, or skipped one at a time (which takes longer). This isn't cool. Two trailers, sure, make us skip them both. But so much advertising that almost an entire 22 minute sitcom episode could be viewed instead? What the hell!?
Why? Why why why why why why why why why why why WWWWHHHHHYYYYY? The only way this could get any worse would be if this transfer were for an actual good film. Ooh, low blow, I know, but I can say, without a doubt, that I hated watching this film on Blu-ray, not due to having to actually watch it again, but because it looks so damned awful. I don't know exactly what kind of elements Lionsgate were given to work with here, but I really have to wonder how in the hell a film like this could look this bad. I expect the random "Tapout clothing line sponsored MMA fighter trying to act" films to look like crap, since that's somewhat standard operating protocol for that "genre," but a less than 10 year old romantic comedy looking like even Echo Bridge Home Entertainment would be embarrassed to release it? It makes no sense.
Mind you, this isn't the worst Blu-ray out there. There are worse. Now that the obligatory compliment has been made about this 1080p VC-1 encoded transfer, I can get straight into ripping it a new one. For ninety plus minutes, I waited anxiously for this moment, somewhat ironically paralleling the theme of the film. It feels so good to just get this out there, to get to talk shit about this candidate for worst looking Blu-ray of the year.
'40 Days and 40 Nights' opens with intentionally degraded looking handheld camera footage of two young people in love, frolicking about without a care in the world, seen through a computer screen. The thing is, as soon as the film leaves this digital realm, where ugliness is allowable, one starts to realize that maybe it was supposed to look pristine, clean, and like it were filmed that day...because the real life current time events taking place in the film look just as bad, if not worse, than the completely awful opening sequence that had me ready to forgive due to aesthetic intent.
What's so bad about it? I've seen less macroblocking in Lego Land. This Blu-ray makes me wonder how a film would look like if it were jammed on a Super Nintendo cartridge, played through coaxial cables on a 17" color television that was due for a tube replacement for years. It's bad. It's so bad that I really wish I could score this one a zero. The entire picture is plagued, plagued with random pixelation, blocking, square patterns, horrific artifacting. It can look, at times, like watching a film that was comprised of a mosaic for each and every shot, it looks that fucking bad. It's not just the opening scene. No, that would not be enough to hate this disc so much. Instead, it's an issue that plagues nearly every shot of the film to a varying degree. Not every sequence is so bad that it looks like it is being viewed through a shower door, but just about every shot has an issue or two.
The dirt speckling isn't a big deal, as it's never really all that large. But skin tones are regularly horrifically tinted. Orange, green, blue, it doesn't matter. Facial detail is non-existent, because, in many sequences, detail in general is non-existent. An arm is held in front of the camera early in the film, and it's impossible to distinguish a hair on it. It's a floating blur. On top of super splotchy skin due to the horrific artifacting affecting it regularly, there is random smudginess to be found on epidermal features regularly. It's as if someone was saying "I think I can still make out some detail in Hartnett's face. Gotta fix that right away!" And fix it, someone did. This disc looks consistently flat, dull, and outright ugly. Yes, in the late second act to early third act of the film, it has a stretch where the anomalies aren't as blatantly obvious and insulting, but you know they're still there, since motion just never looks right, since everything is regularly in motion to begin with from the fluttering errata filling the screen. Did I mention the noise, yet? No? Well, it can be pretty damn horrible. Flickering? Sure, why the hell not, come on in, enjoy the party.
I really, really hate this transfer. I mean I loathe it. I want to see whoever was in charge of it get pelted in the face for an hour by all of the discs replicated, one by one, with or without their cases. This transfer makes an already difficult to stomach film an even more difficult viewing experience. What exactly went wrong, aside from everything? Someday we may find out that the company that bought the Miramax library is intentionally giving subpar materials to all of the distributors so that the double dips that are sure to come will do very well for themselves. I wouldn't be surprised. This is some bush league garbage right here.
With these low scores, I started to feel like I was reviewing a former Disney-owned property put out by Echo Bridge. Gotta fix that right away. Thankfully, Lionsgate's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless track on '40 Days and 40 Nights' is actually very decent. Probably not decent enough to excuse the borderline horrendous video quality, though. I have no idea how utterly amazing a film would have to sound to make up for that.
Anyways...the audio...enjoyable, very enjoyable. Dialogue is constantly warm, perfect in prioritization and pitch, with nary a moment of awkward distortion or hollowness. Movement doesn't happen often, but there are a few scattered effects, a bit more than one would expect from a film of this nature. Rears get some very light soundtrack presence, just enough to call this a 5.1 mix. But the bass...it's quite good. Some hard thumps here, some light ones there, it keeps the film entertaining to listen to, somewhat fresh and unpredictable, instead of monotonous.
The video still sucks.
Ten years old, yeah ten years old. These boring extras are ten years old.
'40 Days and 40 Nights' isn't a good film. It's borderline pretentious, incredibly unfunny, utterly unsexy, tantalizingly ridiculous, and sensationally stupid. It's not good. It wasn't good in 2002, it certainly isn't now. If you have fond memories of it, leave them there. Revisit this hate crime against humor at your own risk...especially since it is among the worst Blu-rays ever released. I am really, really tempted to score it even lower than I did here, it's that bad. The audio is pretty damn good, which is a shame, since there's no way I could ever recommend this release. Well, I could. There are people I'm not too fond of. They're going to get a spoofed version of this review with tons of five star ratings.