Originally, I wasn’t planning on ever seeing Movie 43.
Remember Movie 43? That’s the comedy with the huge ensemble cast that came out in January and stayed in theaters for about a week. The trailers looked terrible, the commercials looked terrible, and finally, the reviews were terrible. In fact, the reviews were so terrible (Richard Roeper called it the Citizen Kane of bad movies) that, at first, I was perfectly content never to see it.
However, as time passed, I continually heard Movie 43 referred to as being one of the worst films ever made. Every 12 months, I post my picks for the 26 worst films of the year and I knew that Movie 43 was one of those films that would either appear on that list or, if it didn’t, I would have to be willing to defend the title’s absence.
I realized that before I could either defend or condemn, I would have to sit through the movie. After all, I figured, it’s only 90 minutes of my life.
90 minutes that I’ll never get back, I might add.
Movie 43 is an anthology film in which 13 separate comedic sketches are loosely linked together by one overarching story. For the most part, this is a film that was presumably made both for adolescent boys and for men who still think like adolescent boys. Most of the humor is derived from bodily functions and there’s a real strain of misogyny running through the entire film. However, the film’s problem is not that it’s crude and misogynistic but that it manages to be so dull about being crude and misogynistic. If you think its hilarious when Meg is insulted on Family Guy or when Seth McFarlane smirks after making an anti-Semitic comment, you might enjoy Movie 43 but the rest of us are going to find far less to enjoy.
Oddly enough, there are actually two different versions of Movie 43 in circulation. In the version that was released in U.S. theaters, the various vignettes are tied together by a story in which an insane director (Dennis Quaid) pitches scene after scene to a callous movie executive (Greg Kinnear). In the version that was released in the UK, they’re linked together by a story about 3 teenagers searching for the most offensive film ever made. To be honest, both versions are pretty stupid but I prefer the one about the 3 teenagers, if just because that way I can pretend that neither Dennis Quaid nor Greg Kinnear had anything to do with this movie.
As for the sketches themselves, there’s 13 of them and they are a mixed bag as far as both humor and quality are concerned:
1) The Catch (dir by Peter Farrelly)
Kate Winslet and Hugh Jackman go on a blind date. Jackman has testicles hanging from his neck and only Winslet thinks this is an odd thing. This skit goes on forever.
2) Homeschooled (dir by Will Graham)
Liev Schreiber and Naomi Watts explain how they’re making sure that their teenage son is getting the full high school experience despite the fact that he’s being homeschooled. They do this through a combination of hazing and incest. This skit worked pretty well, mostly because of the dedication that Schreiber and Watts brought to their absurd roles.
3) The Proposition (dir by Steve Carr)
Uhmm…yeah. So, this is the skit that opens with Anna Faris asking Chris Pratt to defecate on her. I skipped over it because, quite frankly, life is too short.
4) Veronica (dir by Griffin Dunne)
Neil (Kieran Culkin) is working the night shift at a depressing grocery store when his ex-girlfriend Veronica (Emma Stone) comes in. They argue about who infected who with an STD. Little do they realize that Neil has accidentally turned on the intercom and everyone in the store can hear them. I actually kind of liked this short skit. Culkin and Stone had a lot of chemistry and it was well-directed by Griffin Dunne. Plus, it only lasted 2 minutes and, therefore, ended before the joke got old.
5) iBabe (dir by Stephen Brill)
The iBabe is an MP3 player that happens to look like a life-size nude woman. Unfortunately, a fan was built into the iBabe’s vagina and now, teenage boys are being dismembered while fingering and fucking iBabe. Richard Gere plays the President of the company that makes iBabe. I’ve never thought of Richard Gere as being a comedic actor and his performance here does nothing to change that.
6) Superhero Speed Dating (directed by James Duffy)
Robin (Justin Long) goes speed dating and Batman (Jason Sudekis) tries to mess things up for him. This skit – which also features (and wastes) Uma Thurman, Kristen Bell, and Bobby Cannavale – is so incredibly bad that I don’t even know where to begin. Between this film and his appearance in last year’s The Conspirator, I’m having to rethink my slight crush on Justin Long.
7) Machine Kids (directed by Jonathan Von Tulleken)
This commercial parody asks us to consider the children who work inside copiers and vending machines and how they are effected when we criticize those machines for not accepting our dollar. This was actually so weird that I couldn’t help but love it.
8) Middleschool Date (dir by Elizabeth Banks)
7th grader Amanda (Chloe Moretz) is having her first “middle school” date with Nathan (Jimmy Bennett) when she starts her first period. In response, Nathan and his older brother (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) panic. Believe it or not, this was actually one of the better parts of Movie 43, if just because the scene’s humor comes not from Amanda getting her period but instead from how every male around her descends into histrionics as a result. It helps that this was the only part of Movie 43 that was both written and directed by women. It also helps that director Elizabeth Banks is so clearly on Amanda’s side. The end result is one of the few moments in Movie 43 that doesn’t feel misogynistic.
9) Tampax (dir by Patrik Forsberg)
This is another fake commercial. Two girls are at the beach. One uses tampax tampons and the other doesn’t. Guess which one gets eaten by a shark? As opposed to the previous skit, this bit of menstrual humor was obviously written and directed by a man (and the message, not surprisingly, is “Ewww! Girls are scary and dangerous!”) but I’m going to have to admit that this one made me laugh if just because, like Middleschool Date, it reminded me of some of the period horror stories that I used to hear (and believe) back when I was younger. (Though I was raised to be more concerned about bears than sharks…)
10) Happy Birthday (dir by that noted comedian, Brett Ratner)
Pete (Johnny Knoxville) kidnaps an angry leprechaun (Gerard Butler) and gives it to Brian (Seann William Scott). The leprechaun’s equally angry brother (also played by Gerard Butler) shows up and violence ensues. Watching this skit was like being told a joke by someone who has no sense of humor.
11) Truth or Dare (dir by Peter Farelly and Patrik Forsberg)
Halle Berry and Stephen Merchant are on a first date and Merchant has testicles on his neck…oh wait. Sorry, that was Hugh Jackman and Kate Winslet’s skit. In this skit, Berry challenges Merchant to game of truth or dare. It escalates as the dares get continually more and more outrageous. Whoops? Did I say outrageous? I meant to say stupid and oddly dull. Watching this skit was like listening to a someone who has no sense of humor continue to tell a joke even though everyone else has already guessed the punchline.
12) Victory’s Glory (dir by Rusty Cundieff)
In this parody of “inspirational” sports movies, Coach Jackson (Terrence Howard) speaks to his basketball team before they play their first game against an all-white team. The gist of the speech is that Jackson’s team is going to win because they’re black and the other team is white. This skit started out strong but, like a lot of Movie 43, it ran on for a bit too long.
13) Beezel (dir by James Gunn)
This was actually my favorite part of Movie 43. Unfortunately, since Beezel shows up in the middle of the end credits, I get the feeling that a lot of disappointed audience members had probably already walked out of the theater before it even began. Beezel is a cartoon cat who has an unhealthy obsession with his owner (Josh Duhamel). When Duhamel’s girlfriend (played by Elizabeth Banks) catches Beezel masturbating to pictures of Duhamel in a swimsuit, Beezel responds by plotting her demise. Beezel was actually the only part of Movie 43 that truly felt edgy and unpredictable. This is largely because this segment was directed by James Gunn, one of the few truly transgressive artists currently working in mainstream film.
So, here’s the question: is Movie 43 the worst film of 2013 as so many critics have claimed? A few isolated moments aside, Movie 43 is pretty bad. Even the parts of the film that do work can’t hope to compete with the pure horrifying incompetence of that parts that don’t. However, thanks largely to James Gunn and Elizabeth Banks, it’s still a smidgen or so better than Tyler Perry’s Temptation. (For all of its failings, Movie 43 never suggests that AIDS is God’s way of punishing wives who stray. Nope, for that message, you have to go to Tyler Perry.)
Movie 43 is not the worst film of 2013.
It just seems like it.