Peter Farrelly must have a lot of dirt on Hollywood’s A-list elite, because it’s impossible to imagine how else he managed to rope so many of them into this woefully misguided anthology project, a punishing exercise in brain cell annihilation that shoots for edgy but mostly settles for inane petulance. Likely to be remembered as one of 2013′s worst releases – and possibly the worst film ever made with a cast this grand – Movie 43 will appeal only to those who enjoyed the painful Friedberg-Seltzer “comedies” such as Epic Movie and Meet the Spartans.
Oddly, the domestic and international versions of the film appear to have different framing narratives for the shorts; while the US equivalent features Dennis Quaid playing a disturbed screenwriter, the version shown in the UK involves three kids scouring the Internet for the titular movie, supposedly the most dangerous and disturbing film in the world. Only being able to vouch for the soulless banality of the international version, I’m nevertheless reasonably assured by other reviews that the American version is no less horrendous.
As for the other 11 shorts? They largely consist of taking talented actors – many of them Oscar winners and nominees, including Kate Winslet, Hugh Jackman, Naomi Watts, Uma Thurman, Halle Berry and Terrence Howard – and placing them in as many humiliating situations as is possible over the mercifully short 90-minute runtime. The film was shot over the course of roughly three years, with the various guest directors – including Brett Ratner, Elizabeth Banks, James Gunn, Griffin Dunne and Farrelly himself – nabbing the actors for a day of shooting whenever it suited their schedule.
Some actors who were roped into the project were evidently able to wriggle free – Colin Farrell initially signed up to play Gerard Butler’s leprechaun brother before realising what a terrible idea it was – while the rest, perhaps encouraged to take a less-serious stab at acting, nevertheless embarrass themselves in spectacular fashion. Hugh Jackman, for one, playing a man with testicles hanging from his neck, will long-regret having Movie 43 on his CV, if only because the timing of its release will do absolutely nothing to help his Oscar prospects next month.
The shorts are generally as crude and tasteless as the filmmakers likely thought possible, with no bodily fluid being left out; Anna Faris and Chris Pratt play a couple experimenting with excrement in the bedroom, Kieran Culkin and Emma Stone discuss the litany of STDs they’ve contracted together, Chloe Moretz gets her period and goes about smearing it around her friend’s house, Halle Berry wears some gigantic fake breasts, and Elizabeth Banks wages war against an animated feline who masturbates over pictures of his owner, played by Josh Duhamel. Shocking though these asides might be to casual movie-goers, they quickly become tiresome to anyone who’s seen their share of profane gross-out humour because, while these sorts of gags can work, they need some wit on either side of the mess to make it punctuate.
There’s only one short in the entire slop that’s even remotely effective, where Liev Schreiber and Naomi Watts play a couple who home-school their son, but in still wanting him to have an authentic high school experience, ensure to bully him, exclude him from their parties, and in one instance, even have sex with him. Steeped in disturbing irony as it is, this short feels like something we might see on The Onion, and as such Schreiber and Watts are the only two who manage to (barely) escape with their dignity in tact.
A virtually laughless waste of time, Movie 43, released with minimal marketing and without being screened for critics, will be quietly dumped and quickly forgotten by audiences, something its cast will surely be relieved to hear. Still, it’s difficult to imagine what the stars of this woeful anthology film sought to gain by starring in such an actively unfunny collection of skits.
Movie 43 is in cinemas now.
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