- Movie 43
- Running time
- 98 min
- Peter Farrelly and 12 others
- Hugh Jackman, Naomi Watts, Halle Berry, Kate Winslet, Dennis Quaid, 97 others
- OFLC rating
- MA 15+
Movie 43, an anthology of grossed-out comic sketches from a slew of primarily American directors and writers, arrives in Australia with some incredibly promising reviews. Writing in the Chicago Sun-Times, Richard Roeper describes it as ''the Citizen Kane of awful'', which suggests a failure of epic proportions and something far more interesting than just another mundane thriller. Unfortunately, like most hyped movies – albeit in reverse – Movie 43 is not as bad as initially reported. It isn't shockingly dreadful, just intermittently bad.
Assembled by producer Charles Wessler and co-director Peter Farrelly (There's Something about Mary), Movie 43 is meant to push the boundaries of screen comedy, but the simple fact that it's not even R-rated makes it clear it's not going to destroy impressionable young minds. In fact, it plays as if it were made for them, with a bias to the adolescent male sensibility that is staggeringly banal.
Developed and shot over several years, the film doesn't really have a comic philosophy. It tips its hat to tastelessness, but most of the segments could play out without too much change on the venerable American sketch-comedy show Saturday Night Live.
The one short that pushes the boundaries of taste, ''The Proposition'', with comedic actors (and married couple) Anna Faris and Chris Pratt contemplating an act I won't describe, peters out before it can match the revulsion to a humorous realisation.
Movie 43 has been sold on its all-star cast, but the real problem is those guiding them. Steven Brill, for example, has already directed a handful of shoddy features, including Adam Sandler's Little Nicky and Drillbit Taylor. Who imagined that, given the moribund conceit of his segment in this film, ''iBabe'', about an MP3 player constructed in the form of a naked woman with an industrial-design flaw unclear to Richard Gere's tech mogul, Brill would suddenly be reborn as the third Coen brother?
With the rise of YouTube and the stretching of the television sitcom format, sketch comedies are everywhere now, yet there's little sign of any iconoclastic young directors who might have an interest in challenging the format. Nor, for that matter, could the producers convince any major dramatic filmmakers to cut loose with the offer of eight minutes to do as they like. The creative ranks are too often staffed by journeymen and the jaded.
Praise, then, to - and bewilderment for - the leading actors, who went through with making an appearance. Once ''The Pitch'', a horribly ill-considered Hollywood in-joke and framing device, is dispensed with, the picture goes straight into ''The Catch'', where the blind date between Kate Winslet's Beth and Hugh Jackman's Davis is dominated by his obliviousness to the pair of testicles growing out of his neck. Winslet's alarm is only amusing because Jackman plays the scene charmingly straight.
Winslet was funnier playing a smutty version of herself in the Ricky Gervais series Extras, and several pieces similarly fail to make use of the talent assembled. Actor and occasional filmmaker Griffin Dunne does the right thing with ''Veronica'', a late-night vignette where Emma Stone and Kieran Culkin's banter begins at broken up and ends in lustful admonitions. The piece is inconsequential, but the pair has genuine chemistry when it comes to barbed insults.
One sketch, however, is genuinely hilarious, and not just because Naomi Watts snarls ''f--- face'' in it. Directed by Will Graham, ''Homeschooled'' stars Watts and real-life partner Liev Schreiber as a suburban couple who, as part of educating their child at home, duplicate the high-school social experience. They torment their confused teenage boy (Jeremy Allen White), alternately playing bullying coach and mean girl, and the concept gets progressively weirder until Watts' Samantha is providing her son with his first kiss.
Watts makes subversive use of her considerable talent, whereas Halle Berry playing an escalating game of truth or dare with Brit beanpole Stephen Merchant merely tries to shock. Movie 43, in general, lacks female intelligence or vitality, although Elizabeth Banks adds a few credits by directing ''Middleschool Date'', which sends up irrational male panic when Chloe Grace Moretz's teenager starts to menstruate.
Banks also stars in James Gunn's ''Beezel'', a bizarrely amusing send-up of animated animal characters (the phrase ''Garfield reject'' is a keeper) that is hidden well into the closing credits. That kind of inept scheduling, along with sometimes shonky make-up and lighting, and lingering misogyny, sums up Movie 43. The best parts are over too soon and the worst drag - it turns out Gerard Butler is no more entertaining in a short than a feature.