Directed by Peter Farrelly, Elizabeth Banks, Steven Brill, Steve Carr, Rusty Cundieff, James Duffy, Griffin Dunne, Patrik Forsberg, James Gunn, Bob Odenkirk, Brett Ratner, Jonathan van Tulleken
Written by Will Carlough, Tobias Carlson, Jacob Fleisher, Patrick Forsberg, Will Graham, James Gunn, Claes Kjellstrom, Jack Kukoda, Bill O’Malley, Matthew Portenoy, Greg Pritikin, Rocky Russo, Olle Sarri, Elizabeth Shapiro, Jeremy Sosenko, Jonathan van Tulleken
Cast: Elizabeth Banks, Kristen Bell, Halle Berry, Leslie Bibb, Kate Bosworth, Gerard Butler, Josh Duhamel, Anna Faris, Richard Gere, Terrence Howard, Hugh Jackman, Johnny Knoxville, Justin Long, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Chloë Grace Moretz, Liev Schreiber, Seann William Scott, Emma Stone, Jason Sudeikis, Uma Thurman, Naomi Watts, Kate Winslet
The greatest terror that any comedian must face is when he/she stands up in front of an audience and tells a raunchy or offensive joke…and it fails to land. It’s a great risk for sure, but it’s a chance that must be taken in the event that the right audience may respond with uproarious laughter instead. Movie 43 is a film that takes such a risk and manages to get both results. Is it daring? Kind of. Is it bad? Not quite. Is it hilarious? That depends on who’s watching.
The marketing folks must have had a hell of a time trying to sell Movie 43 to the general public because it’s a comedy that really isn’t about anything. Simply put, it’s a series of skits strung together by a barely cohesive narrative, much like The Onion Movie which came out in 2008. Of course, there have been many skit films before Movie 43, but this is the first one to be backed by a major studio and to have a multitude of A-list actors, actresses, and filmmakers attached.
Thankfully, there is narrative glue that holds the segments together, but just barely. It’s mostly centered on a disheveled “screenwriter” (played by Dennis Quaid) who is trying to pitch his movie to a Hollywood executive (played by Greg Kinnear), but like the rest of the movie itself, their situation begins to spiral into absurdity, and in between we are treated to a series of mock ads and strange scenarios that increasingly build on their gags until they just sort of end. In one segment, a young couple decides to take their relationship to the next level by way of the boyfriend pooping on his girlfriend. How can you build a skit around that? Well, they did, and the results are surprisingly hilarious. However, a skit revolving around a parents’ unorthodox home schooling of their son did not hit the mark, nor did a weird skit involving Emma Stone and Kieran Culkin, who basically talk about doing gross stuff to each other in a supermarket checkout line.
The mock ads sandwiched in between were also a mixed bag. A PSA about machine abuse had everyone cracking up, while an ad/skit for a life-sized music player—the iBabe—just made no sense and overstayed its welcome (despite a surprising appearance by Richard Gere).
On the one hand, Movie 43 is a breath of fresh air. You can tell that everyone involved did not take this movie seriously and had fun doing it. Like a good comedian, the film took its chances and succeeded in some areas while utterly failing in others. However, the fact that so many A-listers contributed to this film is, in my opinion, the only reason Movie 43 had a shot in theaters. In reality, Movie 43 doesn’t break any new ground in terms of raunchy comedy, and without its distinctive line-up, is no different than every other low-budget skit film that has come before it. If you want consistency in your comedies, steer clear of Movie 43, but if you like random, awkward humor, you’ll be right at home, but I can’t guarantee you’ll be laughing the whole way through.