Up until its release, Movie 43 has pretty much been a mystery. From its vague title to the bizarre trailers to its official website actually being called whatismovie43.com, a large part of the marketing campaign or rather, all, of the marketing campaign of this film has been built around the fact that no one had any idea what the hell it’s about. One of only two things that were certain was that it somehow had one of the largest casts of big name stars, many of them Oscar-nominated, ever assembled.
Take that, Gary Marshall!
The other thing: IT’S DIRTY AND DISGUSTING AND OUTRAGEOUS AND RAUNCHY!! OH MYGOD!!!! IT MUST BE SEEN TO BE BELIEVED!!!!
Well, I saw it.
So here’s what Movie 43 is. It’s a collection of vignettes in the vein of The Kentucky Fried Movie and Amazon Women on the Moon loosely connected by a recurring storyline involving a desperate screenwriter (Dennis Quaid) pitching his dream film to a Hollywood executive (Greg Kinnear). This was apparently the result of a change from the original framing device of a group of teens searching the internet for a copy of a banned film called Movie 43. Anyway, the writer’s suggestions get more perverse and outlandish with each new chapter, sort of like that Aristocrats joke. The star-studded cast plays out each demented sequence.
Movie 43 is the brainchild of Peter Farrelly, who deserves a toast for actually getting this thing made and managing to beg/bribe/blackmail the large list of respected and acclaimed A-listers including Kate Winslet, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Richard Gere, Emma Stone, Greg Kinnear, Naomi Watts, Terrence Howard, and Uma Thurman, among others. There are also people like McLovin’, Stiffler, and Snooki and then even more stars that fall somewhere in between those two ends of the spectrum.
“What am I doing in this mess?”
Farrelly wasn’t able to finagle everyone he wanted though. George Clooney reportedly replied with “No fucking way” when approached to appear while Colin Farrell and South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, all once connected to the project, dropped out. David and Jerry Zucker, the writers of The Kentucky Fried Movie, were also attached and jumped ship. Still, assembling a cast that large is a pretty impressive feat. And after seeing the result of all this, it’s even more impressive that all these people agreed to be involved.
Not only did they consent for whatever reason (I’m going with a contract with Satan since all actors were paid scale), they all dutifully play along, no matter how demeaning and cringe-inducing the material they are given is. And it’s pretty humiliating, in a couple cases, even potentially career-jeopardizing. Halle Berry’s scenes in particular are enough to make her Catwoman role seem downright dignified by comparison.
“What am I doing in this mess? What am I doing with this?”
I will also say there are two very funny and clever sketches: a fake public service announcement about being kind to vending machines, copiers, ATMs, and the like because there are small children working inside of them who get sad and frightened when people yell and curse at the machines. (They’re doing their best!) This, along with a fake tampon commercial are the only examples of well-thought-out and actually humorous bits that get a genuine laugh and don’t overstay their welcome. Interestingly, neither of these two segments contain any big name stars.
“What do you mean I’m not a big name star? And also, what am I doing in this mess?”
Everything aside from the scenes I just mentioned is pretty much unwatchable. It’s… it’s….the only reasonable explanation I can come up with is that this film is intended as a joke on the audience and a social commentary on what passes as “entertainment” these days. And if that’s the case, then, well done Movie 43, I guess. But damn, did you have to be so freaking painful?
Here are some examples of things you will see in Movie 43: A man has testicles hanging from his neck, but no one seems to care or notice, except his mortified blind date; Parents home-school their teenage boy, giving him the full-high school experience including bullying and his first sexual encounter (courtesy of Mom!); A woman asks her boyfriend to defecate on her; and a game of Truth or Dare quickly gets out of hand with dares including grotesque plastic surgery, a facial tattoo of a penis, and vagina full of hot sauce. Sound fun? Perhaps, if there was any shred of wit behind it or if the gags had any payoff at the end. But there’s not and they don’t. Everything is just…there and each segment seems excruciatingly long, more mind-numbing with every passing moment.
“What am I, I! doing in this mess?”
Just to give you an idea of how bad this is all is, directly before seeing Movie 43, I went to a Rifftraxed screening of Manos, The Hands of Fate that played in the same theater. For those of you that are not familiar with it, Manos, The Hands of Fate is arguably the worst movie of all time. Now, even with the added hilarious Rifftrax commentary, that movie is agonizing to get through (except for the Torgo parts of course) so a person would think any movie after sitting through Manos would seem great by comparison. Not in this case! And I sure laughed a hell of a lot more at Manos.
“I’mmm sooo glladd I wasn’ t in thaaat mess.”
The main problem, other than the lack of anything resembling humor, is that movie wants so badly to be offensive and shocking, but everyone behind it (that would be a grand total of 12 directors and 9 writers) seems to have forgotten that things are only shocking if they haven’t already been done a million times. Farrelly himself should realize this having been largely responsible in pioneering the use of gross-out gags in mainstream films such as Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary (speaking of which, Movie 43 recycles the jizz-in-the-hair joke). Those films are now, respectively, 19 and 15 years old and seem tame compared to a lot of today’s releases. Just two weeks ago I saw Marlon Wayans take a dump into his girlfriend’s father’s ashes and then get anally raped by a ghost, so sorry Movie 43, period jokes aren’t exactly going to make me clutch my pearls.
A superhero speed-dating segment featuring Uma Thurman without one dig at Batman and Robin? Really? God, this movie is not even trying.
“What am I doing in this mess?”
I will never, ever, EVER be able to look at Hugh Jackman again without thinking of him having balls hanging from his neck.
“Who am I? 24601 and 2 BALLS.”
Just when you think it’s finally, finally over and credits begin to roll, it’s not! There is still one last dreadful sketch to sit through involving a jealous cartoon cat that sabotages his owner’s lovelife because he’s in love with him. We know this because the cat masturbates to pictures of him. And because the cat masturbates while watching his owner have sex. And also because the cat penetrates his owner’s mouth. By this point, the viewer is curled up, in a semi-comatose state, gently rocking back and forth repeating “No more. No more. I promise I’ll be good, Mommy. No more.” At least I was.
I’m with you Britney.
I loved the idea of this movie. I was excited to see it. I wanted to love it, I really did. The day after seeing it I even forced myself to look back on it to try to find things that could be funny in hindsight by taking the position that the intent was to be awful on purpose to piss people off, but I still got nothing.
The best way I can describe Movie 43 is: imagine the worst possible episode ever of Saturday Night Live where every sketch falls flat, only with bigger names and nudity.
Take a Drink: at every big name cameo. Take two if they’ve ever been nominated for an Oscar. Three if they’ve won an Oscar.
Take a Drink: every time you see a bare breast (real or prosthetic).
Take a Drink: whenever a sketch goes on too long, beating the hell out of the same gag over and over.
Take a Drink: every time you can actually see an actor regretting being a part of this while filming their scenes.
Do a Shot: when you regret letting your curiosity get the better of you. Repeat until you black out (should take about 43 shots).
Here are some bonus English-edition Movie 43 drinks, courtesy of new contributor Ryan Morris:
Take a Drink: every time you want to punch one of the three computer kids in the face.
Take a Drink: every time you spontaneously lose all respect for a previously established actor/actress
Take a Drink: pretty much every time a new short begins. Should make the next five minutes a hell of a lot easier for you.
Do a Shot: the second you realise “Well, this was a waste of money”. This should happen roughly 3 minutes into the film.
Last Call: See Beer Six