‘Movie 43’ wasn’t named after its number of decent laughs
The Hollywood mess “Movie 43” is a series of short films with a dizzying array of actors — Halle Berry, Kate Winslet, Hugh Jackman — in a variety of oh-no-they-didn’t sketches, almost all using body parts and bodily functions as their punch lines.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
“Movie 43,” with Halle Berry, Kate Winslet, Terrence Howard, Elizabeth Banks, Uma Thurman, Richard Gere, Hugh Jackman, Johnny Knoxville, Naomi Watts, Gerard Butler, Emma Stone. Directed by Elizabeth Banks, Brett Ratner, Peter Farrelly, Griffin Dunne, Bob Odenkirk, Steve Carr, Steven Brill, James Gunn, James Duffy, Rusty Cundieff, Patrik Forsberg, Jonathan van Tulleken. A Rogue-Relativity release. 99 minutes. Rated R for strong pervasive crude and sexual content including dialogue, graphic nudity, language, some violence and drug use. Several theaters.
“Movie 43” is a collection of one-joke short films strung together as a feature, movies seemingly built around this guiding directive: Find big-name stars and see how far “out there” they’ll go for a laugh.
Thus, you have Kate Winslet on a blind date with Hugh Jackman, trying not to notice — or be utterly revolted by — the scrotum growing out of his neck. There’s Halle Berry, caught up in a first-date game of Truth or Dare with Brit comic Stephen Merchant that involves tattoos, plastic surgery and sitting still while Snooki from “The Jersey Shore” gives an interpretive reading of Melville’s “Moby Dick.”
If you’re the sort who laughs at the title of that novel, this might be the movie for you — a dizzying array of actors in a wide variety of oh-no-they-didn’t sketches, almost all using oral sex and penis gags as their punch lines.
About a third of the short films land laughs, but even the weakest material is lifted by the players. One bit that works, directed by Elizabeth Banks, has Chloë Moretz on an after-school date, having her first menstrual period, with every male in the house — including Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Patrick Warburton — freaking out.
After seeing this, it’ll be hard to think of Gerard Butler as anything but a special-effects leprechaun, cursing at being captured and tortured “for me Lucky Charms” by Johnny Knoxville and Seann William Scott.
Oscar nominee Naomi Watts and husband Liev Schreiber play home schoolers who torment their teen with a “real” high school experience — an insulting teacher, a bullying gym coach, awkward “first date” make-out sessions with mom and simulated first gay come-on from dad. “It should be the unhappiest time in a boy’s life!”
The connecting sketches — Dennis Quaid pitching these various film ideas to a stunned studio executive (Greg Kinnear) — don’t work at all. An Anna Faris/Chris Pratt digestive-tract joke has a “Yeah, hasn’t Anna Faris already played that?” feel to it. Same with Terrence Howard’s “You’re black and they’re white” inspiring-basketball-coach segment.
“Movie 43” is short, despite cumbersome credits — 10 directors, a scattering of writers and a whole posse of stars. And if Emma Stone and Kieran Culkin having a screaming flirtation at a kinky supermarket checkout register — “You look like the kid who got CANCER for Christmas!” — doesn’t do it for you, maybe the next Big Stars/ Short Film will.