(by Dustin Putman
The only thing worse than a comedy missing a punchline is a comedy of shorts missing eleven separate punchlines. "Movie 43" is appalling, sleazy, disgusting, and an offense against juvenile humor. Its aim is not to be the least bit clever or acerbic, but to simply gross a person out enough that, hopefully, he or she will be suckered into laughing. Sorry, maybe next time. The brain child of Peter Farrelly (2012's "The Three Stooges"), the film has been in the making for four years, its near-dozen segments shot apart from each other as actors became available, virtually all of them doing a favor for their respective director. The outcome—nothing if not demonstrative of how quickly big-time actors will sign on to a project that already has Kate Winslet (2011's "Contagion") attached—could just be the biggest ensemble of A-listers ever assembled (or until the next Garry Marshall holiday opus one-ups it). Alas, all the talent in Hollywood and beyond couldn't make "Movie 43" watchable. It will, however, go down in infamy, that you can be sure of. Article continues below
The clothesline of sub-par, borderline NC-17-rated "SNL" skits are strung together by the barest of wraparounds, as Dennis Quaid (2012's "Playing for Keeps") plays a ne'er-do-well screenwriter desperately pitching story ideas to a hot-shot film producer (Greg Kinnear). At first, he talks about his desire to make "a smart movie with heart" and "a movie about something," then proceeds to rattle off the most obscene and pointless treatments imaginable. In "The Catch," the aforementioned Kate Winslet plays a single fashion designer on a disastrous blind date with a man (Hugh Jackman) who would be absolutely charming if he didn't have a scrotum hanging from his neck. In "Homeschooled," Naomi Watts (2012's "The Impossible") and Liev Schreiber (2010's "Repo Men") play parents determined to give their son (Jeremy Allen White) the full teenage experience without him ever leaving the house—and yes, he reaches first base with his mother. In "The Proposition," Anna Faris (2012's "The Dictator") stars as a sunshiny scat fetishist who wants her boyfriend (Chris Pratt) to poop on her. In "Super Hero Speed Dating," Robin (Justin Long) keeps getting cock-blocked by an uncouth Batman (Jason Sudeikis). In "iBabe," Richard Gere (2012's "Arbitrage") looks to be clinging to the outer rims of Hell as a clueless CEO who can't understand why his latest product, a music-listening device in the form of a nude woman with a precarious thresher in the vagina, keeps mangling kids' penises.
"Movie 43" has maybe two or three laughs and another couple snickers in all of its 97-minute running time. Ironically, the only segment that could be classified as actually working is the one with no stars at all, a parody commercial called "Machine Kids" that imagines a world where children are placed in the darkness of vending machines, ATMs and copiers to tearfully answer to the unappreciative whims of its users. Also not too terrible are two late-in-the-game shorts, "Truth or Dare" and "Beezel." In the former, a go-for-broke Halle Berry (2012's "Cloud Atlas") and Stephen Merchant (2011's "Hall Pass") play an uncomfortable couple on a first date who break the tension by playing a game of "Truth or Dare" that grows rapidly out of hand. In the latter, Elizabeth Banks (2012's "Pitch Perfect") is threatened by her beau's (Josh Duhamel) possessive, murderous cat named Beezel, a rivalry that journeys so far out there that it actually becomes amusing in how far director James Gunn (2011's "Super") is willing to take his dark comedy with an undeniable horror undercurrent. Is there a point to its mean-spiritedness, though? Is there a point to any of the cruelty and humiliation rampant throughout "Movie 43?" That would be a no.
"The Catch" has one lame joke—that Hugh Jackman (2012's "Les Misérables") has balls under his chin—and then replays it over and over for ten excruciating minutes. No one but Winslet seems to notice them, but why? And so what? In "The Proposition," defecation is used as the focal point—the only point—in the filthiest love story one may ever see. In "Middle School Date," Chloe Grace Moretz (2012's "Dark Shadows") suffers the misfortune of getting her first period while hanging out with the boy (Jimmy Bennett) she likes. "I'm just a regular 7th grade girl who's got her first period, and it really sucks that it was in front of all you idiots!" Moretz exclaims near the end of the scene in one of the very few moments that legitimately rings true. Oh, and let's not forget the atrocious "Veronica," where a grocery store clerk (Kieran Culkin) profanely spars with, then seduces, his ex-girlfriend (Emma Stone) over the intercom speaker. Save for a well-placed tear rolling down Emma Stone's (2013's "Gangster Squad") cheek at just the right time, this story couldn't be any more flat and trivial. Oh, wait, yes it could if its name is "Happy Birthday" and features Johnny Knoxville (2013's "The Last Stand") as a guy looking to make amends with his roommate (Seann William Scott) by trapping an angry leprechaun (Gerard Butler) in the basement. Shootings, stabbings and a big pot of gold follow. Wasn't this already done in 1993's "Leprechaun" with Warwick Davis and Jennifer Aniston?
"Movie 43" is uneven, to say the least, ranging from downright intolerable and scuzzy to, very rarely, on the border of acceptable. Most, of course, will focus on its disastrous elements, and deservedly so. This is an asinine, amateurish concoction of stank that would never have made it into theaters were it not for a cast of virtual hundreds, wishing now (and probably even when they shot it) that they had never gotten involved. Years from now, it may be viewed as a curiosity piece, a barren and empty cry for help from stars who should have known better. Nevertheless, in close to every way that it could go wrong, it does, and that's got to be worth a dubious footnote if nothing else.
January 25th, 2013 (wide)
June 18th, 2013 (DVD)
Steven Brill, Peter Farrelly, Will Graham, Steve Carr, Griffin Dunne, James Duffy, Jonathan Van Tulleken, Elizabeth Banks, Patrik Forsberg, Brett Ratner, Rusty Cundieff, James Gunn
Will Carlough, Tobias Carlson, Jacob Fleisher, Patrik Forsberg, Will Graham, James Gunn, Claes Kjellström, Jack Kukoda, Bill O’Malley, Matthew Portenoy, Greg Pritikin, Rocky Russo, Olle Sarri, Elizabeth Shapiro, Jeremy Sosenko, Jonathan Van Tulleken, Jonas Wittenmark, Ricky Blitt
Starring: Elizabeth Banks, Kristen Bell, Halle Berry, Leslie Bibb, Kate Bosworth, Gerard Butler, Bobby Cannavale, Common, Kieran Culkin, Josh Duhamel, Anna Faris, Richard Gere, John Hodgman, Terrence Howard, Hugh Jackman, Greg Kinnear, Johnny Knoxville, Justin Long, Stephen Merchant, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Chloe Grace Moretz, Chris Pratt, Dennis Quaid, Liev Schreiber, Seann William Scott, Emma Stone, Jason Sudeikis, Uma Thurman, Naomi Watts, Kate Winslet
Total: 8 vote(s).
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Rated R for strong pervasive crude and sexual content including dialogue, graphic nudity, language, some violence and drug use.