“Movie 43” is an irreverent comic oddity that throws any sense of political correctness to the wind. That the overtly raunchy movie arouses more pained curiosity than actual laughs is an unintended symptom of the tone-deaf contributions of nine screenwriters seemingly attempting to outdo one another in the area of shock value.
Conceived as a transgressive anthology of humorous vignettes directed by a slew of filmmakers that include Griffin Dunne, Peter Farrelly, Brett Ratner, and even Elizabeth Banks, the movie adds up to considerably less than the sum of its outrageous parts. Gross-out set-ups and sexual sight gags escalate with the piecemeal aid of A and B-list actors that include Greg Kinnear, Halle Berry, Seth MacFarlane, Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, Emma Stone, Liev Schreiber, and Naomi Watts.
The skeletal narrative framework finds frantic screenwriter Charlie Wessler (Dennis Quaid) pitching his swan song script idea to Greg Kinnear’s mid-level Hollywood studio boss Griffin Schraeder after illegally gaining access past studio security. The filthy comic sketches that erupt are sequences from Wessler’s “edgy” screenplay.
One such storyline puts Kate Winslet’s unsuspecting character Beth on a blind date with Hugh Jackman’s Davis, a man with the misfortune of having a pair of testicles positioned beneath his chin. No one except Beth seems to notice the pair of balls that dangle in front of Davis’s Adam’s apple. A pubic hair in his soup, and an uncomfortable photo opportunity make Beth and the audience squirm. Still, no explanation is forthcoming about why it is exactly that only Beth can see, or is bothered by Davis’s very public nutsack.
The film’s most outré sequence involves a romantically involved couple played by the real-life married duo of Anna Faris and Chris Pratt. After 16 months of dating Vanessa (Faris) is ready to reveal the scatological nature of her sexual desires. She makes a bold request for her boyfriend Jason (Pratt) to poop — not sh*t — on her. The distinction makes for an unsatisfying end to the ill-conceived skit.
The filmmakers seemed to think that if they threw enough gross ideas at the wall, some of them would stick, and some of those would be funny. They were wrong on all counts. Nonetheless, “Movie 43” will earn a cult niche in cinema history if only for the film’s bizarre coupling of high-octane talent with some of the worst comic ideas ever imagined.
Rated R. 94 mins. (D) (One Star - out of five/no halves)