Sunday, November 10, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Movie 43 (2013) *½

R, 94 min.
Directors: Peter Farrelly, Will Graham, Steven Brill, Steve Carr, Griffin Dunne, Elizabeth Banks, Jonathan van Tulleken, Patrik Forsberg, Brett Ratner, Rusty Cundieff, James Gunn

Writers: Rocky Russo, Jeremy Sosenko, Ricky Blitt, Bill O’Malley, Will Graham, Jack Kukoda, Matthew Portenoy, Claes Kjellstrom, Jonas Wittenmark, Tobias Carlson, Will Carlough, Jonathan van Tulleken, Elizabeth Shapiro, Olle Sarri, Jacob Fleisher, Greg Pritikin, James Gunn

Starring: Dennis Quaid, Greg Kinnear, Common, Charlie Saxton, Will Sasso, Seth MacFarlane, Mike Meldman, Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, Liev Schreiber, Naomi Watts, Jeremy Allen White, Anna Faris, Chris Pratt, JB Smoove, Kieran Culkin, Emma Stone, Richard Gere, Kate Bosworth, Jack McBrayer, Aasif Mandvi, Justin Long, Jason Sudeikis, Uma Thurman, Bobby Cannavale, Kristen Bell, John Hodgeman, Leslie Bibb, Christopher Mintz-Plaase, Chloë Grace Moretz, Patrick Warburton, Jimmy Bennett, Matt Walsh, Gerard Butler, Seann William Scott, Johnny Knoxville, Halle Berry, Stephen Merchant, Terrence Howard, Elizabeth Banks, Josh Duhamel

“Movie 43” was advertized as a movie that could potentially ruin the careers of the big name stars involved in it. It very well could have, if anyone had bothered to see it in theaters. I suppose it’s an example of how film criticism does work for the public. The movie was panned (for good reason) and people ignored it. Now, if anyone bothers to rent it, it will be out of whimsy instead of anticipation, and they will be more forgiving of the actors involved.

“Movie 43” is an anthology of grossout comedies in which some pretty big name directors were able to entice some very big name actors to participate in some of the most offensive short films ever made. The funny thing is that many of the ideas are actually pretty funny if you stop and think about them. Unfortunately, it seems that’s something the filmmakers didn’t bother to do, because so few work in terms of comic effect. Perhaps the film’s biggest problem is its framing device, which involves Dennis Quaid as a Hollywood writer pitching these terrible ideas to an aghast producer played by Greg Kinnear. These segments are by far the least funny of the bunch and yet they’ve structured the movie to depend on them to string all the stories together.

Hugh Jackman and Kate Winslet star in a particularly uncomfortable segment in which Winslet is on a blind date with Jackman, who has a ballsack attached to his chin. That gives you a pretty good idea of the level of humor involved here. Halle Berry and Stephen Merchant star in another dating segment where they play truth or dare to break the ice and the game gets out of hand. Perhaps if it hadn’t started at the out of hand point, it might’ve worked better. All three segments mentioned so far were directed by Peter Farrelly and never quite find the humor in their situations. But the least effective is the segment depicting Anna Faris and Chris Pratt in a relationship gone to the next level of defecation on each other. Really? I know fetishes like this exist, but I don’t see the humor in them.

Some of the segments have potential. Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber play parents who homeschool their teenage son in every aspect of high school, including bullying and sexual exploration. I think this would’ve worked better had the mom looked more like a mom and not Naomi Watts. The “Superhero Speed Dating” segment has some fine work by Jason Sudeikis as Batman and Justin Long as Robin, but it feels more like it belongs on a live sketch comedy show like SNL rather than a big screen treatment. The Elizabeth Banks directed “Middleschool Date” breaks some pretty solid barriers about the silly perceptions men have of women’s periods. Unfortunately, the men traumatize a female with her first period in it. Gerard Butler stars as a couple of Leprechauns in the segment “The Birthday Present”, where he proves them to be foul, unlikable creatures, but Brett Ratner never really does anything with it except have the characters physically abuse each other. And the final segment “Beezel” about a girlfriend trying to rid her boyfriend of his perverted cartoon cat suffers the same problem. “Toonces, the Driving Cat” was a much better fake cat comedy.

There are some that come closer to success, but don’t make the movie worth it. Richard Gere stars as a technology company CEO whose new product iBabe, a media player the looks and feels like a real life naked woman, has young men mutilating their private parts. I liked how all the men were oblivious to the obvious design problem. “Victory’s Glory” is a good spoof of the inspirational sports flick, where Terrence Howard makes fun of the racial differences in athletes with his all black team who he psyches up by explaining to them that they are black and the other team is white. ‘Nuff said. My favorite was Griffin Dunne’s “Veronica” however, that has Emma Stone and Kieran Culkin having a grocery store love affair.

There are also two commercial segments, one about children working in cash machines and another very disturbingly funny Tampax commercial, which appropriately follows Banks’ “Middleschool Date”, that again would work great on SNL, but don’t work as well in this larger format. There are points that are worthwhile in this gross collection, but they are far overshadowed by all that doesn’t work. This is what I call a shake your head movie, because after its over you can’t help but hang your head and shake it in shame.

Red Band Trailer contains foul language and nudity.

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