I love a good gross out comedy. I even enjoy sketch comedy movies despite the fact that form doesn’t really work on the big screen. I wanted to enjoy Movie 43. I really did. The idea of one of the Farrelly Brothers talking a cast of famous faces into doing the filthiest and most offensively dumb comedy you can imagine as a grand Hollywood prank seemed like a guilty pleasure that was right up my ally. Sadly no amount of self-delusion could possibly make me even pretend this piece of garbage shat out at the ass end of the January dumping ground qualifies as passable comedy for a second. I never really understand when people call dark comedy mean spirited or offensive, but thankfully that’s not the problem. Movie 43 doesn’t cross any sort of good taste barrier that makes it upsetting. It’s just not funny whatsoever and drags on endlessly with self-satisfied stabs at gross out gags by a group of actors and filmmakers who should know better. This movie was clearly buried for a reason. Everyone involved just wants it to go away so they can move on with their careers. The Razzie 2013 race starts here and frankly, they should just hand over the award now.
The general concept involves Dennis Quaid as a psychotic screenwriter performing a terribly offensive pitch to Greg Kinnear that goes down so poorly that it turns into a hostage situation. In between that go-nowhere connective tissue, we’re offered the pleasure of seeing celebrity packed sketches like Kate Winslet going on a date with Hugh Jackman only to discover he’s got balls hanging from his chin, Emma Stone and Kieran Culkin arguing over who gave who an STD, Halle Berry and Steven Merchant playing truth or dare, Elizabeth Banks fighting a masturbating cartoon cat, Johnny Knoxville giving Sean William Scott a vulgar leprechaun for his birthday, Christopher Mintz-Plasse freaking out over a girl having her period, a naked woman mp3 player that’s cutting off teen boys’ dicks, Liev Schreiber and Naomi Watts abusively home schooling their child, Chris Pratt taking a dump on Anna Faris, Terrence Howard telling a basketball team they’ll win because they are black, and other nonsense. Every sketch exists purely to break some sort of taboo, but everyone involved forgot to actually make that funny.
It’s been a long dark road for the Farrelly Brothers since their trilogy of lightheartedly profane triumphs in the 90s (Dumb and Dumber, Kingpin, and There’s Something About Mary). Their once easy comedy touch seemed to disappear immediately after their first blockbuster and while The Three Stooges gave me hope that they might just have a few laughs left in the tank, the fact that Peter Farrelly wasted four years making Movie 43 instantly erases that small dream. That’s right, four years. Farrelly apparently nursed this nonsense along as a dream project, convinced he could talk a cavalcade of famous faces to join in on the joke and create a cult oddity. Somehow over all that time no one bothered to point out that the script falls into the worst trap of bad SNL sketches. None of these segments are properly written sketches. They’re premises that are repeated over and over until a black out. Sure it’s somewhat funny to see Jackman’s ball chin for the first time simply because it’s clear a team of make up people had to actually craft the prosthetic and Jackman had to spend hours putting it on, but then they have nowhere to go other that point out, “Holy crap! He’s got balls on his chin! Do you see that?” That’s true of every segment on display. When you start with a gross out premise you have to figure out how to top yourself or the whole thing is useless. Putting a famous star into a failed sketch doesn’t save it either. It just makes the whole thing that much more disappointing (again, see SNL for more).
To be fair, there are a couple of mildly amusing moments in Movie 43, most of which were in the trailer. Other than that, there are two somewhat funny fake commercials (the inclusion of which doesn’t even make sense in the movie pitch concept, but whatever) and the sketch with Halle Berry and Stephen Merchant is ok simply because Merchant is actually a comedian and a good one. But, we’re talking about maybe 3 minutes of laughter in a 90-minute movie. Surely someone involved must have noticed what was happening wasn’t funny at some point in this process.
My guess is that Peter Farrelly just kept making sketches hoping that the next one might work and at a certain point had spent too much money to stop. The saddest part is that it would have been fantastic to see a huge movie with this cast actually delivering decent offensive comedy. It could have been an oddly subversive blockbuster. Instead, it’s just a dull trainwreck that’s an embarrassment for everyone involved. This feels like it might become one of those infamous bombs that books and film critic punchlines are made of. It really is enough of a grand failure to deserve infamy, but also one pretty well guaranteed to never earn a cult audience (except for maybe amongst a few middle school burnouts who like writing graffiti with the excrement on public toilet walls since the movie hits their level of humor). If you really want a sign of what a disaster this movie is, here it is: at one point Trey Parker and Matt Stone were going to do a segment, but never did. There are no comedy minds in Hollywood better suited to creating a ludicrously offensive sketch with celebrities and they’ve got 38 weeks off from South Park per year to shoot a sketch over a few days. But, they’re also guys with high enough standards to know to avoid doing crap for cash. Seth MacFarlane is in Movie 43 though. Draw your own conclusions.