Thursday, January 31, 2013

In Theaters: MOVIE 43 (2013)

(US - 2013)

Directed by Peter Farrelly, Steven Brill, Will Graham, Steve Carr, Griffin Dunne, James Duffy, Jonathan Van Tulleken, Elizabeth Banks, Patrik Forsberg, Brett Ratner, Rusty Cundieff, James Gunn.  Cast: Dennis Quaid, Greg Kinnear, Common, Seth MacFarlane, Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, Naomi Watts, Liev Schreiber, Anna Faris, Chris Pratt, J.B. Smoove, Emma Stone, Kieran Culkin, Richard Gere, Kate Bosworth, Jack McBrayer, Aasif Mandvi, Justin Long, Jason Sudeikis, Uma Thurman, Kristen Bell, Bobby Cannavale, Leslie Bibb, John Hodgman, Katrina Bowden, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Chloe Grace Moretz, Jimmy Bennett, Patrick Warburton, Matt Walsh, Seann William Scott, Johnny Knoxville, Gerard Butler, Halle Berry, Stephen Merchant, Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi, Terrence Howard, Elizabeth Banks, Josh Duhamel. (R, 94 mins)

The extremely R-rated sketch comedy MOVIE 43 boasts what might be the most overqualified cast ever assembled for the sole purpose of thoroughly embarrassing themselves.  The project was headed by Peter Farrelly, who gathered eleven other directors and a total of 18 writers to put together what probably seemed like a good idea in theory:  get an incredible amount of A-list movie and TV stars together for a modern take on raunchy 1970s sketch comedies like THE GROOVE TUBE (1974), IF YOU DON'T STOP...YOU'LL GO BLIND (1975), CAN I DO IT...TIL I NEED GLASSES? (1977), JOKES MY FOLKS NEVER TOLD ME (1978), and the subgenre's standard-bearer, THE KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE (1977).   It's hard to believe that this much talent could be squandered so badly, but MOVIE 43 only has a couple of good ideas and a total of about five decent laughs throughout.  I don't think it's being too demanding to have expected a little more than that.  A joke occasionally lands and only sticks out because what's around it is so depressing and dismal.  Entire segments go by where you can't help but ask yourself "What was the endgame here?  What is the joke?" 
Farrelly handled the main storyline, which has Dennis Quaid as a washed-up director in skinny jeans and a Justin Bieber cut barging into studio exec Greg Kinnear's office and pitching him an idea for a sketch movie.  And that's the premise.  So, we get Kate Winslet and Hugh Jackman on a blind date, where she discovers that he has a scrotum dangling from his neck.  Things briefly pick up with an interesting idea that's one of the very few examples of MOVIE 43 doing something edgy and daring:  Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber play homeschooling parents who want their teenage son to have the complete high school experience, so they regularly subject him to bullying and insults for starters, then throwing a huge party and not inviting him, culminating in Mom trying to make out with him and Dad making a pass at him, all to give him that special "awkward first time" opportunity that all teenagers should have.  It's a funny idea, but the writers and segment director Will Graham don't really know where to take it, so it ultimately fizzles, but it's one of the only examples of MOVIE 43 trying to do something.  Next, it's Anna Faris asking boyfriend Chris Pratt to "poop" on her (not even the great J.B. Smoove of CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM can save this one, telling Pratt to eat beefy bean burritos with guacamole to "add some color" to it).  Supermarket checkout clerk Kieran Culkin and ex-girlfriend Emma Stone have an intense erotic conversation, unaware that the intercom is picking it up and it's being pumped through the store (Stone: "Do you still like fingers in your butthole?" Culkin: "I want to give you a hickey on your vagina").  Then, Richard Gere is the CEO of a company facing lawsuits over their "iBabe" music player, which is a life-sized replica of a woman, prompting teenage boys to mutilate their penises because of a cooling fan that's in the "lower quadrant."  I think the joke is that none of the execs except Kate Bosworth saw that this would be a problem.  Next up, Robin (Justin Long) is at a speed date when Batman (Jason Sudeikis, who has a few amusing lines) shows up to cock-block him.  Kristen Bell is Supergirl, Uma Thurman is Lois Lane, and Leslie Bibb is Wonder Woman.  Then there's a painfully unfunny commercial about "Machine Kids," that shows people getting mad at vending machines, ATMs, and copiers and being told that little kids are inside operating them (I don't know what the joke is, either). 

Chloe Grace Moretz is at boyfriend Jimmy Bennett's house when she gets her first period, prompting Bennett, older brother Christopher Mintz-Plasse, and their dad Patrick Warburton to freak out.  Then there's a Tampax commercial with a CGI'd shark eating a female swimmer (because of the blood and the...yeah, you know).  Seann William Scott and Johnny Knoxville are roommates who kidnap a foul-mouthed leprechaun (Gerard Butler's face CGI'd on to a smaller body) in a segment directed by Brett Ratner (it's a cliche to bag on Ratner at this point, but when there are four people credited as "Brett Ratner's assistants" for a contribution this miniscule, he's pretty much asking for it).  Things get better for a short while with Halle Berry and Stephen Merchant on a blind date that turns into an increasingly ridiculous, rude, and politically incorrect game of Truth or Dare.  It's another example of a solid idea without a punchline, but there are some amusing gags and this particular segment is comic genius compared to the several that preceded it, even with Oscar winner Berry mashing guacamole with her (stunt) breast and inserting a turkey baster filled with hot sauce into her vagina. Terrence Howard is the coach of a black college basketball team in 1959, where his game plan is essentially "You're black...they're white.  This ain't hockey!"  It's a one-joke premise that wears out its welcome fairly quickly, but it's not awful and it's nice to see segment director Rusty Cundieff (FEAR OF A BLACK HAT, TALES FROM THE HOOD) working on the big screen again.  MOVIE 43 finally ends with a laughless offering from the otherwise dependable James Gunn, with Elizabeth Banks (who directed the Moretz/period segment) battling a jealous, gay, masturbating, animated cat named Beezil for the affection of boyfriend Josh Duhamel.

Other than the Watts/Schreiber "Homeschooling" and the Berry/Merchant "Blind Date," there's not much humor to be found in MOVIE 43.  It's more concerned with shock value, which can be funny, but there's just nothing for these people to work with here.  If they wanted to be edgy, the filmmakers needed to bring more to the table than diarrhea, menstrual blood, and a nutsack dangling from Hugh Jackman's neck.  Even something as simple as having Gere make a gerbil joke would've demonstrated that they were trying and anything was fair game.  But really, 15 years after THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY and we're still getting "jizz as hair gel" jokes?  Is MOVIE 43 as apocalyptically bad as many critics have said?  Is it "the CITIZEN KANE of bad movies"?  No, not even close.  Oh, make no mistake...it's terrible, and easily one of 2013's worst films, though I'm sure it won't be the worst. I laughed a few times and it's still better than, say, any spoof movie by Friedberg & Seltzer, the Antichrists behind DATE MOVIE and MEET THE SPARTANS.  No, MOVIE 43's biggest crime is amassing an IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD-sized cast (and JERSEY SHORE's Snooki) and thinking the shock and the novelty of these people making genitalia and bodily-function jokes would be enough.

MOVIE 43 was shot over a period of three years, and worked on whenever actors or directors had time in their schedules.  The version released overseas omits the wraparound segments with Quaid and Kinnear and substitutes it with three teenagers scouring the internet for something called "Movie 43," reputed to be the world's filthiest film.  That at least explains the title, which means nothing in the context of the US release.  Two additional segments were shot but ultimately not included:  one directed by Bob Odenkirk, with Julianne Moore and Tony Shalhoub as parents being interviewed about their missing daughter (funny!) and one with Anton Yelchin as a necrophiliac, which begs the question of how bad they must've been if they were deemed unworthy of MOVIE 43.  I'm sure those will end up on the inevitable "Unrated and Unacceptable!" (or some such nonsense) version on DVD/Blu-ray, but for now, the biggest winners of MOVIE 43 have to be Julianne Moore, Tony Shalhoub, and Anton Yelchin.

Thanks to John Charles for the tip on the alternate version.


  1. The segment of Anton yelchin was directed by Steve Baker & Damon Escott NOT by Bob Odenkirk.

  2. Corrected. I blanked for a second--I knew he directed one of the dropped segments. Thanks for the info!

  3. "... which begs the question of how bad they must've been if they were deemed unworthy of MOVIE 43."

    Or will they mysteriously be better?

    How about arguably a little better, which will lead to a minor cult that declares them brilliant beyond measure and their exclusion shows the failure of Hollywood to promote true brilliance?