The day has yet come in which Tom Green’s Freddie Got Fingered has been considered a landmark of surrealism, nor I fear will it for the uneven, half-baked gross-out Saturday Night Live-style sketch comedy Movie 43. Sketch is the key word here, as we’re introduced to a bourgeoisie with little discreet charm, save for two of the movie’s best shorts – both over-the-top, including an angsty young adult love story, laden with quick references to abortion and HPV, “Veronica,” directed by Griffin Dunne and staring Emma Stone and Kieran Culkin. The second, is a hilariously embarrassing sitcom where Chloe Grace Moretz has her first period while on a “Middle School Date” — the cast including Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Patrick Warburton and directed with great comedic timing by actress Elizabeth Banks.
The rest of the movie is a mixed bag, whereas some segments are about the depths men will go to impress or keep a women happy (this is mostly a guys movie — Banks, the only female director, in the bunch has fun with embarrassment and honesty), others are really just about fart and balls jokes. It’s not a total embarrassment for the top-notch cast, which includes Dennis Quaid as a screenwriter proposing each of these films to Greg Kinnear, a studio boss who stops him perhaps two stories too late.
Apart from the two I liked, some of the shorts land laughs, while others fall flat. There’s some surprising and enjoyable appearances and now, I suppose we can get into spoiler alerts 00 so you’re not tempted to scroll down where the letter grade usually is, let’s just call this one a below average C-, but not without its moments.
Peter Farrelly takes on many of these shorts, from various writers (also only one female in the group) – the other filmmakers direct one each (some direct commercials that are just kind of stupid) they include Steven Brill, Steve Carr, Rusty Cundieff, James Duffy, Griffin Dunne, Patrick Forsberg, James Gunn, Bob Odenkirk, Brett Ratner, and Jonathan van Tulleken.
Now that that’s out of the way, Quaid proposes a story with heart — he says like The Help, a charming love story finds Kate Winslet on a blind date with the city’s most eligible bachelor (Hugh Jackman). He’s perfect until he takes off his scarf (this one gets old quick). Following this is the awkward yet clever “Homeschooled” with Naomi Watts and Live Schreiber insuring their son has the proper, miserable high school experience from home, one subtly abusive aunt away from The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
It’s no surprise much of this film is in bad taste: what does it attempt to achieve? I don’t know. I also don’t know what “Movie 43” stands for (I actually waited for the end credits, hoping like in like The Foo Fighters: Back and Forth, Dave Grohl would magically appear and tell us that if he had to do it all over again, they would have picked a better name).
The grossest of the shorts? That would be “The Proposition” with Anna Farris and Chris Pratt, but I admit I laughed. Here poop is a metaphor. It’s funny and in bad taste, kind of like how later in the film Seth MacFarlane pitches a studio exec played by Common on an idea that’s a cross between Schindler’s List and Family Guy (maybe that’s what we’re watching?). Movie 43 is fascinatingly baffling, a train wreck of sorts. Some shorts would have been left on the cutting room floor (including “iBabe” – despite the talents of Richard Gere, Kate Bosworth and Jack McBrayer), along with “Truth or Dare”, I feel like we’ve seen and done that before on Saturday Night Live (this one stars Halle Berry and Stephen Merchant, again on a blind date), and “Happy Birthday” (mildly amusing, it wastes its comic talents, this time Johnny Knoxville and Seann William Scott). I’m undecided on “Victory’s Glory” and “Super Hero Speed Dating,” along with “Beezel.” this movie’s “credit cookie” if you’re frustrated and leave before its over. I won’t blame you if you are. Beezel has its moments, directed by James Gunn, Elizabeth Banks battles a gay cartoon cat for the affections of Josh Duhamel.
Comedy has a certain power. If you are prone to laughter in most situations, this might be a movie for you. Like many parody films and sketch comedies its easily digestible. Even as I screened it in a large multiplex, I believed this is a movie made for the future. Inevitably someone will have the TV on when they invite you over for a beer. They will have found it, channel surfing and become curious because each scene contains a recognizable celebrity, and while you’re over talking about something else, this will be the occasional background noise that makes you smile or laugh. But that’s not really cinema. I wish they’d just skipped the theatrical release and put the Dunn and Banks shorts online as a teaser for a fitting cable premiere.
Movie 43 is now in wide release.
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