Stars: Dennis Quaid, Greg Kinnear, Kate Winslet, Hugh Jackman, Chris Pratt, Anna Faris, Chloe Grace Moretz, Johnny Knoxville, Seann William Scott, Kristen Bell, Halle Berry, Stephen Merchant, Gerard Butler, Uma Thurman, Justin Long, Jason Sudeikis, Richard Gere, Jack McBrayer, Asif Mandvi, Kate Bosworth, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Rob Riggle, Leslie Bibb, Kieran Culkin , Elisabeth Banks, Josh Duhamel, Anna Faris, Naomi Watts, Liev Schrieber and Peter Farrelly.
Writers: Steve Baker, Will Carlough, Jacob Fleischer, Patrik Forsberg, Matthew Alec Portenoy, Greg Pritikin, Rocky Russo, Jeremy Sosenko and Elisabeth Wright Shapiro.
Directors: Bob Odenkirk, Elizabeth Banks, Steven Brill, Steve Carr, Rusty Cundieff, James Duffy, Griffin Dunne, Peter Farrelly, Patrik Forsberg, Will Graham, James Gunn, Brett Ratner and Jonathan van Tulleken.
Most skit humour is singularly base in its aims and execution, no doubt due, in part at least, to its college-campus/vaudeville origins. With three minutes or so to get a laugh, deeply incisive character work is not likely; instead, the skit’s modus operandi is ‘set up the premise, milk it to the max and get out’. Movie 43 adheres to this principle to a fault and the result is both wildly uneven and spectacularly tasteless.
The producer is Peter Farrelly, of There’s Something About Mary fame (he even plagiaries his own semen-in-the-hair gag). As director of Dumb and Dumber, Kingpin, Me Myself & Irene, Shallow Hal and Stuck on You, Farrelly (usually in cahoots with his brother Bobby) has proven that coarse crudity and sublime comedy can co-exist. Here, he oversees a potpourri of miss/hit/miss shorts from the likes of Steven Brill (Drillbit Taylor; Little Nicky), Steve Carr (Paul Blart: Mall Cop), Brett Ratner (the Rush Hour films) and James Gunn (Slither; Super; the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy).
The framework upon which this barrage of otherwise unrelated stories hang involves a desperate producer named Charlie (Dennis Quaid) pitching greatest-ever-movie-ideas to studio exec Griffin (Greg Kinnear). These ideas manifest as the visions of a truly twisted mind. The tone of the film is dictated from the first comic set-up, in which beautiful single, Beth (Kate Winslet), finds herself on a blind date with the seemingly perfect bachelor Davis (Hugh Jackman) only to discover he has a scrotum hanging from his chin.
That’s right…Hugh Jackman plays a man with twitching, hairy testicles dangling below his face. Essentially, that’s the gag; Winslet acts awkward, while no one seems to mind or even notice. The testicles dip in the soup, or retract in the overly air-conditioned restaurant, or smack Kate in the teeth when he kisses her forehead, yet despite such inspired moments the premise is never fully exploited.
And so it goes for most of Movie 43. Chloe Grace Moretz has her first period the same time she has her first kiss, which freaks out her new boyfriend Jimmy Bennett (whose breakdown is very funny) and his brother Christopher Mintz-Plasse; Johnny Knoxville kidnaps a foul-mouthed leprechaun (Gerard Butler’s head on a wee person) as a birthday present for Seann William Scott; Halle Berry and Stephen Merchant play a no-holds-barred game of Truth or Dare; a super-hero speed-dating evening, featuring Batman and Robin (Jason Sudeikis and Justin Long respectively), Supergirl (Kristen Bell), Lois Lane (Uma Thurman), Wonder Woman (Leslie Bibb) and Superman (Bobby Cannavale); and, Richard Gere as the executive in charge of the iBabe, a lifelike nude woman/personal music device, whose inventors failed to consider the consequences of placing the machine’s cooling fan where a vagina would otherwise be.
As you might have guessed, Farrelly’s greatest (some might argue, only) achievement is corralling major stars to participate in this entirely insane project. A couple of vignettes somehow manage to work – director Griffin Dunne’s ‘Veronica’, a bizarre supermarket-set love story in which Kieran Culkin and Emma Stone PA-announce their twisted, niche sexual connection to a weird collection of midnight-to-dawn shoppers; Carr’s The Proposition, featuring Chris Pratt as a lovelorn every-guy and real-life partner Anna Faris as the potential fiancé with a predilection for faecal humiliation; and, Patrik Forsberg’s nightmarish tampon commercial, featuring a great white shark and two women, only one of which is using a ‘leakproof’ sanitary device.
Traditionally, the ‘skit’ movie finds most love many years done the track. Box office non-starters such as John Landis’ Schlock!, Ken Shapiro’s The Groove Tube and the portmanteau work Amazon Women on the Moon (featuring the directorial talents of Landis, Joe Dante and Carl Gottlieb) are now must-own DVDs, largely reviled in their day (as is the case with Movie 43, which ranks at 5% on Rotten Tomatoes as this review goes live). One hopes, in a hard-to-fathom kind of way, that is the case with Farrelly’s film; the very fact that all gave so willingly of their time and talent to feature in such a grotesque spectacle is sort of endearing.