MANILA, Philippines – The good thing about “Movie 43” is that, at 90 minutes, it’s short.
Then again, its entirety could well be the longest 90 minutes of your life.
At least its sketches-in-a-row format makes for a fairly zippy pace. And the movie does have the peculiar distinction of nabbing some of contemporary Hollywood’s biggest stars in the kind of big-screen smorgasbord that we thought was confined to the ’70s.
In essence, “Movie 43” is a collection of 12 or so short stories that have no common denominator other than political incorrectness. (Even its title is a meaningless, irrelevant tag.) The stories were directed by a dozen filmmakers; two of the shorts credited to Peter Farrelly (half of the “There’s Something about Mary”-making Farrelly brothers), who helped shepherd his new project across the last 4 years.
Watch the trailer here:
As my wife has noted, it’s reminiscent of “Paris Je T’aime,” a memorable, 2006 anthology film that corralled some 22 directors and yielded 18 storytelling nuggets slash love letters to the City of Lights.
In terms of genre, however, “Movie 43” is more akin to “Kentucky Fried Movie,” a 1977 compendium of diverse, comedic sketches but which was directed by just one person, John Landis.
(Warning: Spoilers ahead.)
The game tandem of Kate Winslet and Hugh Jackman get “Movie 43” into gear with a blind-date segment where Jackman’s dashing character turns out to have a testicular appendage on his neck. Despite their being in a busy, tony restaurant, it’s only Winslet’s character who notices her date’s bodily oddity ― in effect making for a gross-out take on a classic episode of “The Twilight Zone.” (Jackman has such a surfeit of charm that he comes off the ludicrous sight gag unscathed.)
The next bit, starring real-life couple Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber as homeschooling parents who nevertheless subject their only son to the horrors of high school, is perhaps the most interesting of “43’s” narratives. It also gives viewers a rare glimpse of Watts as a skanky meanie, a far cry from her usual hapless victim stance onscreen. This portion is the closest “Movie 43” comes to disturbing heights, and suggests on the side that a full-length Watts-Schreiber comedy might actually work.
From there, it’s an embarrassment of embarrassments.
Another pair of married actors, Anna Faris and Chris Pratt, gets subjected to a depiction of coprophilia ― a kinky fetish involving feces ― that is neither truly provocative nor downright hilarious.
Even much less interesting are Emma Stone and Kieran Culkin as ex-lovers who get outed in a grocery store as sex lovers, the acting tandem’s serviceable performances unable to exude chemistry or elicit hilarity.
Richard Gere, with team efforts from Kate Bosworth and Jack McBrayer, lands the part of a manufacturer of the “iBabe,” a hybrid of iPods and blowup dolls ― a rather sexist concept, even for a lampoon and going by the usually classy, Dalai Lama-espousing Gere’s familiar standards.
The unlikely but compelling teamup of Halle Berry and Stephen Merchant (Ricky Gervais’ accomplice for “The Office” and “An Idiot Abroad”) play dating “truth or dare” enthusiasts who end up corrupting their bodies on the road to romance.
Chloë Grace Moretz, the pre-teen stunner who will next be in a blood-soaked remake of “Carrie,” finds herself in the doubly horrible situation of bloody menstruation and buffoonish males.
Johnny Knoxville, Sean William Scott, and a digitally minimized Gerard Butler are cast in a vapid skit involving leprechauns, violence, a pot of gold, and a wet-dream fairy.
Most annoying of all is an over-stretched speed-dating segment featuring a timid Robin (Justin Long) getting hassled by a pesky Batman (Jason Sudeikis).
The penultimate gag, a dig on sports dramas, finds Terrence Howard playing a dumb, motivational basketball coach coaxing his hesitant team into racial and athletic ascendancy ― the segment a rewarding one mainly for showcasing for Howard’s unmistakable gift for acting.
Inserted within this hodgepodge are some faux commercials, one of which is actually nifty: written and directed by one Jonathan Van Tulleken, the brief spot encourages kindness towards machines in favor of the children supposedly slaving away inside vending machines, photocopiers, and ATMs.
Sounds interesting? On proverbial paper, it might; but onscreen, it’s lazy eye candy. Given “Movie 43’s” come-and-go storytelling, the viewer is not afforded enough time or plot to care about or platonically befriend any of the characters or the actors. This all-skits format is fine for gag shows, like the late “Not Necessarily the News” or “Sic O’Clock News” or the still-on “Bubble Gang,” but not necessarily so for celluloid fare, it seems.
Yet its series-of-sketches format is not “Movie 43’s” biggest misgiving; it’s the utter dearth of entertainment value.
Often in “43,” once the big joke is set up, it’s left dangling like an unsightly accessory before winding down with a dissatisfying closure. Even gag show writers would be hard-pressed to find comedy gold in this dreck. You’d end up wondering why something so forgettable is getting shown in local cinemas instead of more attention-worthy ones. (It’s a far different film, but I’m thinking of “Amour.”)
In other words, “Movie 43” is the cinematic equivalent of speed-dating gone awry, the prospects progressively getting dimmer and dumber as the session wears on. You just might find yourself looking at your theater seatmates and see that they’re also looking around, mouths agape, and saying, “We’re sitting through this?”
That said, and although “Movie 43” has already earned the title of Worst Movie Ever from many reviewers elsewhere ― and could sweep next year’s Razzies ― I’m not inclined to bestow that award on it myself. After all, further down the line, someone just might have the neck-with-balls to come up with “Movie 44.” – Rappler.com
(’Movie 43,’ which has been rated R-16 sans cuts by the MTRCB, is showing in Philippine cinemas.)
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