1 / 5 stars
The mysteriously titled Movie 43 is a sketch-based comedy that’s been slowly shepherded towards the screen by former gross-out king Peter Farrelly. With Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Kate Winslet, Emma Stone, Richard Gere, Naomi Watts, Terrence Howard and many other easily recognizable stars, Movie 43 boasts an astonishing ensemble cast with no fewer than six Oscar nominees in its ranks. Unfortunately, it also boasts one of the worst screenplays we’ve seen or heard in quite a while. (Click on the movie poster for a closer look).
As you’d expect from any sketch-based production, it’s a hit-and-miss affair. With its reliance on crude humour, and its apparent intent on reducing every scenario to the lowest common denominator, Movie 43 is a barrel-scraping comedy that places great stock in the punchline without caring to set up the joke first. The first segment sees Kate Winslet on a blind date with the too-good-to-be-true Hugh Jackman. What’s the gag? He’s physically deformed, with the unfortunate birth defect of having his genitalia on his neck… and everyone else seems oblivious to it but Winslet.
“Comedy” ensues. It’s a cringe-inducing opening sketch and, at the very least, it sets the tone. If you think seeing Hugh Jackman spilling his dinner and awkwardly holding children whilst sporting crude prosthetics is funny, chances are you’ll enjoy the other sketches Movie 43 has to offer. For everybody else, the film is a gross-out chore, making the presence of that impressive ensemble cast all the more bemusing.
So we see Chris Pratt and Anna Faris taking their love to the next level with gross-out consequences, Richard Gere negotiating a health and safety issue inherent in his naked, life-size woman music player, Johnny Knoxville and Seann William Scott entertaining some sadistic leprechauns (including Gerard Butler), and an exaggerated game of Truth or Dare between Halle Berry and Stephen Merchant, which begins innocently enough before devolving into crude tattoos and OTT plastic surgery.
The worst offenders in the film, though, are the fillers and introductions between sketches which, depending on the version you see, feature either Dennis Quaid and Greg Kinnear pitching unproduced scripts, or a trio of teens scouring the Internet for a banned movie (the titular Movie 43). These are the most thankless sequences in the film, and though they may arguably be the least offensive, they’re also painfully unfunny. The less said about the closing episode, in which Elizabeth Banks competes with an animated cat for the affections of Josh Duhamel, the better.
Some sketches are more tolerable than others. The Elizabeth Banks-directed “Middleschool Date” and the Liev Schreiber and Naomi Watts-starring “Homeschooled” offer up the most laugh potential. The former sees Chloe Grace Moretz’s teen experience her first period–whilst at her boyfriend’s house–providing some decent situational comedy, while the latter offers up amusing sight gags as Schreiber and Watts take it upon themselves to give their homeschooled son the complete high school experience, awkward first kiss and all. There’s also the mildly amusing “Superhero Speed-dating” with Justin Long, Jason Sudeikis and Uma Thurman, which ultimately feels like a rejected Saturday Night Live skit at best.
Therein lies Movie 43’s greatest problem. You can see better sketches on TV on a weekly basis, and thanks to SNL’s penchant for starry guest presenters, you can see famous faces in them too. Add the wealth of comedic material available through a quick Internet search, and the film’s main appeal is practically non-existent. Movie 43 is a wasteful, cringe-inducing, critically unfunny exercise in bad taste that is devoid of merit in every respect and should be avoided at all costs.