THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
Movie 43 deserves to go in the record books. It has one of the most impressive all-star casts ever assembled, yet it's easily the worst thing anyone involved with it has ever done. So many extraordinary careers hit their nadir with this single, monumentally awful film. The enormity of its suckage is astonishing.
An attempt to recapture the kind of big screen sketch comedy reminiscent of Kentucky Fried Movie, the film is structured as the pitch of a demented screenwriter (Dennis Quaid) to a harried studio executive (Greg Kinnear). Each idea he presents plays out as its own separate skit. Here's the sort of “hilarity” you'll get: a woman (Kate Winslet) goes on a date with a man (Hugh Jackman) who has testicles on his neck; a married couple (Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber) utilize strange techniques in homeschooling their teenage son; a young woman (Anna Faris) asks her boyfriend (Chris Pratt) to defecate on her; two teenagers (Kieran Culkin and Emma Stone) talk dirty over a grocery store loudspeaker; an inventor (Richard Gere) tries to understand why teenagers are having sex with the iBabe, his life-size, feminine-looking MP3 player; Batman (Jason Sudeikis) interferes with Robin (Justin Long) during a speed-dating session; a tween girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) has her first period in front of her boyfriend, his brother, and his father; a dude (Johnny Knoxville) kidnaps a leprechaun (Gerard Butler) to give to his pal (Seann William Scott) as a birthday present; a couple on a blind date (Halle Berry and Stephen Merchant) play a raunchy game of “Truth or Dare”; a basketball coach (Terrence Howard) tries to inspire his players, including one with an extra-large penis. The only one of the sketches that even remotely works – the dark tale of a guy (Josh Duhamel) whose cartoon cat hates his girlfriend (Elizabeth Banks) – is buried halfway into the end credits.
In addition to starring half of Hollywood, Movie 43 also has some talent behind the camera. The sketches were directed by Peter Farrelly, Griffin Dunne, Brett Ratner, and James Gunn, among others.
A 21st century sketch comedy film isn't a bad idea by any stretch of the imagination. The problem is that Movie 43 doesn't seem to have any perspective. It doesn't comment on our times, nor does it have any connective tissue from one segment to the next. The only mandate seems to have been “get dirty.” Every single bit relies on some taboo subject for humor. Some of them are merely insipid, while others (i.e. the one with the girl getting humiliated by her ill-timed menses) are offensive.
It's not enough to be raunchy. There needs to be context. Remember the famous “hair gel” scene from There's Something About Mary? Imagine if you only saw that sequence, completely divorced from the rest of the picture. It's not inherently funny that a woman rubs semen in her hair. In fact, it's kind of gross. But put within the larger context of the film, that scene was hilarious. We laughed because we knew Ben Stiller was embarrassed to put his dream girl in such an icky situation, but we also laughed because we knew that the Cameron Diaz character probably would have giggled it off had she known. Mary was established enough in our minds at that point. Movie 43 doesn't have fleshed-out characters or entire stories to shape its outrageous scenarios. For that reason, it gives the audience a sense of feeling unclean, uncomfortable, and antsy to leave. This is a prime example of vulgarity for its own sake.
I chuckled a bit at the James Gunn segment, and there's a fake Tampax commercial mid-way through that I suppose is mildly amusing. Mostly, though, I just sat there feeling sorry for all these A-list actors who are trapped with shoddy material in a picture that is beneath them. Halle Berry has an Oscar, for crying out loud. Does she really need to stick her breast in a bowl of guacamole? Kate Winslet has one too, and now she has a fake pair of testicles rubbing up against her face. Last year, Richard Gere gave the best performance of his career in Arbitrage. A few months later, he's playing a guy who invented an MP3 player with a vagina. Did someone blackmail all these folks into appearing in this crap?
Movie 43 is painfully unfunny, inordinately stupid, and about as entertaining as a colonoscopy. If there's a worse film in 2013, I'll be very, very surprised.
(1/2 out of four)
Movie 43 is rated R for strong pervasive crude and sexual content including dialogue, graphic nudity, language, some violence and drug use. The running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes.
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