Movie 43 is an enigma. A star-studded collection of a dozen sketches that play like a tasteless parody of Saturday Night Live (down to the phony commercials), nearly every component bombs, raising the question of what drew such talented names to this miserable project. With no unifying thread other than random, crass attempts at humor, the project is a flop that, instead of being validated by its cast’s participation, has its failure magnified all the more.
Organized by well-connected producer (and potential blackmailer) Charles B. Wessler and overseen by Peter Farrelly as a modern Kentucky Fried Movie, the film purports to be the crazed pitches of Dennis Quaid’s has-been industry worker to Greg Kinnear’s junior studio executive. Promising a movie with something for everyone, Quaid (who, considering his past decade, may be playing himself) opens with a “heartfelt” tale of a “Kate Winslet type” (Winslet herself) on a blind date with Hugh Jackman’s unexplainably eligible bachelor. The answer is soon revealed, and as Jackman removes his scarf to expose a pair of testicles dangling from his neck, he continues the tradition of such Farrelly visual gags as Jack Black’s “tail” in Shallow Hal or Ben Stiller’s own zipper-mangled testicle in There’s Something About Mary. But while those prior sights succeeded in their two-second brevity, the latest iteration gets dragged out for an agonizing five minutes, evidence that Farrelly is capable of worse than The Three Stooges after all.
On the heels of such an ominous start, the content doesn’t necessarily get worse, but it also doesn’t improve. Legitimate comedic seeds are indeed present in several of the shorts and an occasional laugh manages to sneak in. Yet while something like Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber giving their homeschooled son all the humiliations of high school in a domestic setting has its relative appeal, as with the initial Winslet/Jackman sketch, it and other decent premises are stretched until broken, and then continue to be pulled as they’re peppered with as much vapid envelope-pushing as possible. Often, the premise lacks merit entirely, such as the flatulence-filled Anna Faris/Chris Pratt atrocity about a girl who wants her boyfriend to poop on her, or Richard Gere’s chapter, in which an MP3 player in the shape of a naked woman mangles the members of teenage boys who use the device as a sex doll. As the content speeds steadily downhill, one begins to wonder just how damning the photos Wessler has on each participant truly are, and the resulting guessing game becomes more appealing than sitting through the actors’ punishments.
Just when Movie 43 looks impossibly bleak, along comes a superhero speed dating segment with Justin Long as Robin and Jason Sudeikis as a jackass Batman who crashes the Boy Wonder’s evening. The witty banter between the two is a welcome bright spot, as are Bobby Cannavale as a jealous Superman and John Hodgman as the Penguin. Along with the subsequent fake commercial promoting advocacy for children inside machines (because that’s who dispenses your soda or spits out your Xerox, of course), the film appears to be hitting a sophomoric groove. Right on schedule, however, Chloe Grace Moretz’s blood-stained pants turn the menstrual-phobic likes of Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Patrick Warburton into helpless whiners, and the film falls back into its sad funk.
With the allure of bodily fluids trumping sanity, Movie 43 puts the viewer in Kinnear’s position, held hostage by something more dangerous than Quaid’s guns and grenades. As Elizabeth Banks battles with her boyfriend’s animated masturbating cat and Kieran Culkin stupidly talks dirty with Emma Stone, the endurance test drags on and the participation of each star grows increasingly mysterious. Considering its lack of humor, the purpose may be something in the vein of the comparatively pleasureless and idiotic Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie, where the creative powers shoot for an intentionally offensive and unfunny film as a (failed) commentary on modern comedy. But while the Funny Or Die collective’s loyalty explains the aiding and abetting of Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, and Zach Galifianakis in Tim and Eric, no such logic applies here. The Farrellys have been irrelevant for 10-15 years, as has their brand of juvenile humor that mysteriously dominates Movie 43…so, extortion it is! How else to explain this loathsome dud, one under such clueless leadership that no amount of star power can prevail?
Rated R for strong pervasive crude and sexual content including dialogue, graphic nudity, language, some violence and drug use.
Movie 43 is currently playing at the Carolina Cinemas on Hendersonville Rd.