A film review by Craig J. Koban February 6, 2013

MOVIE 43 zero stars  

2013, R, 90 mins.

Featuring: 

Elizabeth Banks, Kristen Bell, Halle Berry, Leslie Bibb, Kate Bosworth, Gerard Butler, Bobby Cannavale, Common, Kieran Culkin, Josh Duhamel, Anna Faris, Richard Gere, John Hodgman, Terrence Howard, Hugh Jackman, Greg Kinnear, Johnny Knoxville, Justin Long, Stephen Merchant, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Chloë Grace Moretz, Chris Pratt, Dennis Quaid, Liev Schreiber, Seann William Scott, Emma Stone, Jason Sudeikis, Uma Thurman, Naomi Watts, and Kate Winslet.

Directed by Peter Farrelly and 12 others / Written by Farrelly and 19 others

I stared at the screen in stunned disbelief all throughout the unendingly painful 90 minutes of MOVIE 43, a film that – considering the incredible amount of esteemed actors on display (including multiple Oscar nominees and winners) – has no business being as atrocious as it is.   

Here’s a film that maliciously squanders the talents of proven performers like – let me check my list – Kate Winslet, Uma Thurman, Naomi Watts, Greg Kinnear, Halle Berry, Hugh Jackman, and Terrance Howard (to name just a few!) as if they never, ever wanted to be acknowledged as serious actors ever again.  MOVIE 43 is one of the most scandalous, offensive, and wrongheaded films that I have ever had the displeasure of seeing since I became a film critic in 2004…and that’s after screening and reviewing nearly 1100 films, many of which were truly awful...but not this unendingly awful. 

The film’s title is, in itself, nonsensical.  I don’t have the foggiest idea why it’s called MOVIE 43, nor does the film meaningfully or specifically references the number 43.  What I can cogently tell you is that the film is an anthology comedy series (with the word "comedy" being used very, very loosely) envisioned primarily by producer Peter Farrelly of the Farrelly Brothers (both of whom in tandem have made many of my favorite comedies of all-time), who directed some of the film’s 14 shorts alongside 12 other directors (including the likes of James Gunn, Brett Ratner, and Griffin Dunne) from the scripts of a combined 20 writers.   No matter how you slice it, this is clearly career-low work for every creative force here that endeavored to make this abomination of a film a cold-hearted and filthy reality.   When I left the screening I was plagued with one undeniable thought: MOVIE 43 is a sad, dismal, and chilling reflection of the increasing devolution of modern moviegoing tastes. 

MOVIE 43’s collection of would-be uproarious, but ultimately disgusting, lewd, and shamefully unfunny sketches appear, as a whole, more interested engaging in lame shock humor for the sake of petty and infantile tastelessness.  Just how tasteless, you may ask?  Just consider the following vignettes:

 

 

 

-  The film opens with a sketch featuring two Oscar nominated actors, Hugh Jackman and Kate Winslet, playing a couple on a blind date.  One of them awkwardly reveals a large pair of hairy testicles hanging from the neck below the chin, that happens to find their way accidentally dipping into soup and being draped over a baby’s forehead.  SPOILER ALERT: Hugh Jackman is the man with the neck balls. 

-  Two seemingly ordinary suburban parents (real-life couple Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber) relay to their friends how they home school their adolescent son, which includes them painstakingly recreating the horrors and social anxieties of high school life, like (for example) the mother making out with her son to give him a taste of the dating scene.  The father gets in on the same scenario, with more homoerotic undertones. 

-  A young man (Chris Pratt) tries to develop the courage to fulfill the love of his life’s (Anna Farris) request to…be defecated on; he gorges on massive amounts of burritos and laxative with disgustingly explosive and predictable results. 

-  A young lovesick grocery clerk (Kieran Culkin) has a pornographic exchange with his ex-lover (Emma Stone) over the store’s PA system, during which he tells her, “I want to give you a hickey on your vagina.” 

-  A monumentally smug and indifferent CEO (Richard Gere) shrugs off the concerns of one of his executives (Kate Bosworth) of the destructive nature of his new iPod-like music device called the “iBabe”, which is essentially a naked woman (available in black or white); there's one problem: horny teen boys are putting their…ya know…into the the device’s vaginal exhaust fan, causing crippling injuries. 

-  Another couple (Halle Berry and Stephen Merchant) go out for supper and engage in a progressively riskier-by-the-minute game of Truth or Dare, during which we see Merhcant get a tattoo painted on him of an ejaculating penis pointed to his mouth while Berry stirs up guacamole with her artificially enhanced bare breast (the product of a past dare...the breast, not the guacamole). 

-  A dude (Johnny Knoxville) gives his best buddy (Seann William Scott) a birthday gift of a lifetime…a kidnapped and gagged leprechaun (Gerard Butler) that hurtles out scatological insults until even my liberal minded my ears nearly bled. 

-  A young girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) has her very first period while she’s over at her boyfriend’s house, which is so bad that she stains the coach – the boy thinks it's juice before he tastes it – and leaves an ugly smear of blood on the wall that she sheepishly holds her body up to.

 

I could go on an on…but I will say that a wave of satisfaction came over me when the film finally ended and the credits came up on screen, complete with the obligatory blooper outtakes (which never provide any insight into why the performers agreed to lend their good names to the project).  Yet, just when the thought of the utter finality of this wretchedly excessive film venture washed over me at this time…the film continued past the credits to include one last kick to the balls to filmgoers in the form of another sketch involving a couple (Elizabeth Banks and Josh Duhamel) that have their relationship impeded by the man’s creepy cat (animated), who exhibits eerie stalkerish behavior (he masturbates to Duhamel’s photos) and includes a shot of the man (in the cat’s fantasy) performing oral sex on it.  At this point I wanted to assume the fetal position in my theater chair, cry, and scream out at the projectionist, "Make it stop!" 

I can see that Farrelly et al were trying – albeit with horrendous levels of success – to encapsulate the loose and raunchy improvisational genius of ensemble sketch films like THE KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE.  Yet, that 1970’s offering was sly and subversive, whereas MOVIE 43 is just too disturbingly putrid and aggressively unfunny to be considered in the same league.  I guess what we are left with is a few headache-inducing questions of how and why:  Why did so many limitlessly esteemed A-listers participate in such vulgar rubbish here and how were they convinced to participate?  Farrelly himself has revealed that the film was shot in bunches over the course of the last several years and that most of the actors were duped into performing in it.  Riiiigggght.   So Jackman - throwing common sense, decency, and his sense of pride into the wind - was tricked into playing a scene with a nut sack hanging above his Adam's Apple?  Sorry, but I call bullshit. 

One thing that Farrelly said in particular about the film haunts me.  “The critics are gonna freak out over this thing, but the college kids, high schools kids, twentysomethings, and anybody that smokes weed is gonna flip out.”  I can handle the shot directed at critics, but as for the rest…Farrelly’s words stunningly illustrate a befuddling lack of respect for the quality cinematic preferences of many young and literate filmgoers.  

I’m sure that even the slack jawed and spaced out weed smokers would agree with me on that.

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