“Movie 43” is a comedy anthology with a simple premise tying together 13 different segments, each directed by a different director: a presumably washed-up screenwriter (Dennis Quaid) pitches a script to a film exec (Greg Kinnear) and keeps floating ideas (the segments we see) when the exec isn’t impressed by what he’s hearing.
The first segment stars Hugh Jackman and Kate Winslet. That’s right. You heard me. And as you watch this “comedy” segment you start to wonder if the “Movie 43” producers hired a private detective to get the dirt on some of Hollywood’s biggest stars so they would agree to be a part of this fiasco—because like the studio exec, the audience will not be impressed. “Movie 43” may try for shock humor and edgy self-referential writing, but it feels like somebody strung together some of the worst SNL skits and called it a film.
I know. You’re probably thinking that sketch comedy is hit or miss, and when one person thinks it’s stupid another laughs, so how bad could this be? I thought the same. I had read where Richard Roeper, Ebert’s old movie pal, called it “the ‘Citizen Kane’ of awful.” I wanted to see for myself. Now I regret wasting my time.
I should have pulled the plug on this debacle after the very first sketch, in which Winslet plays a woman on a blind date with a man (Jackman) who has a pair of testicles hanging from his neck. She’s disturbed by it, and by the fact that no one else in the restaurant seems to notice . . . or care. But that’s it, folks. It’s not pretty, and it’s not funny. It’s just gross, and stupid. You can say the same about a segment in which Anna Faris wants to take her relationship with Chris Pratt to the next level. “I want you to poop on me.” We endure all sorts of “poop” talk in this crappy sketch.
Then there’s “iBabe,” a naked woman that plays MP3s and is geared for the teen and twentysomething guy market. But corporate boss Richard Gere hears from Kate Bosworth and others in the board room that the product is causing huge problems because of its design. A cooling fan was located in the vaginal area, and you probably know what’s happening out on the streets—or in the privacy of guys’ homes. Since the iBabe is as soft and real as a naked woman, guys were sticking their you-know-whats inside her and getting clipped by the fan. Unfortunately, the concept is pretty much everything, because there’s nothing terribly funny about the execution.
Same with “Superhero Speed Dating,” in which Robin (Justin Long) and Batman (Jason Sudeikis) are undercover at a speed dating place trying to sniff out a bomb threat, and they encounter such women as Lois Lane (Uma Thurman) and Supergirl (Kristen Bell). But it’s just long and labored. A segment about a guy (Kieran Culkin) working at a grocery who has an ambivalent sex-talk argument/flirtation with his ex-girlfriend (Emma Stone) that’s broadcast over the store’s P.A. system is like so many of these: a superficial one-joke concept that would have seemed long as a comedy sketch on SNL, but seems interminably so as a “Movie 43” segment.
Other segments include a fake tampon commercial in which a menstruating woman is attacked by a shark, a fake commercial about kids stuck in vending machines, a segment in which a guy captures a leprechaun for his roommate’s birthday, and a bit about a woman (Elizabeth Banks) who thinks her boyfriend’s (Josh Duhamel) animated cartoon cat is coming between them.
Only four segments come close to entertainment, though two of them ultimately frustrate anyone watching because you can see the potential for comedy being trampled by clumsy writing. In one such sketch, Halle Berry and Stephen Merchant play people on a computer date in a Mexican restaurant. Berry tells him she’s sick and tired of first-date chit-chat and wants something more. So she challenges him to a game of truth or dare. The trouble is, the writers can’t seem to think of anything clever to do with the premise beyond letting things escalate to the point of absurdity. You can see it coming, and it’s neither funny nor shocking.
With “Middleschool Date” it’s also a case of not knowing what to do beyond the initial premise. Two youngsters are watching TV after school at the boy’s house and attempt a first kiss. Soon afterwards the girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) gets up and realizes she’s started her first period. The boy (Jimmy Bennett) sees the stain and sniffs, his older brother comes in , then the boy’s father, then the girl’s father, and the revolving door of character entrances seems like a comedic crutch—a substitute, again, for clever writing.
Only two sketches seem almost there: “Victory’s Glory,” about a “Hoosiers”-era black coach who’s trying to give his team a “Hoosiers”-style locker-room pep talk and his guys just aren’t getting it. They’re about to play their first all-white team after playing and beating all-black competition. His message? What sport are we playing? Basketball. And you’re going to win because you’re black. Like the other sketches it’s a one-gag routine, but at least the execution is funny, with Terrence Howard having a good time as the coach.
Finally, the most clever sketch is one that also trades in satire. When the new neighbors come over for coffee, they learn that their hosts, Liev Schreiber and Naomi Watts, have home schooled their high-school age son (Jeremy Allen White). The rub is that their idea of home schooling includes replicating the full high school experience so he doesn’t miss any traumatizing part of growing up with bullying, detentions, locker-room ridicule, school dances, and awkward first kisses.
But one or two “close” sketches do not a successful movie make. I wouldn’t go so far as to call “Movie 43” the “’Citizen Kane’ of awful,” because I’ve seen so many truly bad films. I would, however, say it’s ONE of the worst I’ve seen—and it doesn’t matter whether you watch the R-rated theatrical version or the unrated alternate cut.
“Movie 43” is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen, transferred to a 50GB disc via an AVC/MPEG-4 encode that created only a few instances of ghosting, but otherwise no compression issues. Colors are true-looking, and the level of detail is good on medium shots as well as close-ups.
The featured audio is an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 with subtitles in English SDH and Spanish. There’s nothing that stands out about the sound—not in a negative way, nor a positive way. It’s just there, and it does the job.
This combo pack includes a DVD and Digital Copy of the film, because, yeah, you know you’re going to want to watch it everywhere you go. Both the theatrical version and an alternate cut are included. The only other extra is a deleted sketch, “Find Our Daughter,” that’s no worse than anything the producers decided to keep.
If the stars who signed on weren’t being blackmailed, it boggles the mind that they willingly agreed to be a part of this comedic catastrophe.