“Movie 43” is a collection of one-joke short films strung together as a feature, movies built 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 another Oscar winner, Halle “I Never Get to Do comedy” 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 Snookie 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 male sexual organs and oral sex gags – the lame stand-up comics’ crutch – as their punch lines.
About a third of the short films land a few laughs. But even the weakest material is lifted by the actors. One bit that works, directed by Elizabeth Banks, has Chloe Moretz on an after-school date, having her first menstrual period, and having every male – including Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Patrick Warburton – freak out.
And after seeing this, you may be hard pressed 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, uncaring teacher, a bullying gym coach, awkward “first date” makeout 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 – a writer-director (Dennis Quaid) pitching these various film ideas to a stunned studio executive (Greg Kinnear) don’t work at all. Terrence Howard plays the heck out of a played-out period piece about a black basketball team discovering its destiny in the “big game” against white players — “You’re black, they’re white, and this ain’t hockey!” An Anna Faris/Chris Pratt digestive tract joke – she longs to have her man evacuate his bowels on her – has a “Yeah, hasn’t Anna Faris already played that?” about it.
One thing we’ve never seen – in iPod (Remember those?) upgrade that’s called “iBabe,” with full-size nude and nubile women playing versions of the player which are repeatedly misused, in a sexual way, by customers. Richard Gere, Kate Bosworth and Jack McBrayer sit in on the company crisis meeting over the injuries male customers are suffering with this gorgeous, badly-designed gadget.
“Movie 43” is short, despite cumbersome credits – ten 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, say, Jason Sudeikis riffing as a crude Batman tormenting Robin (Justin Long) while the kid is speed dating Lois Lane (Uma Thurman) and Supergirl (Kristen Bell).
(Is this the worst movie-going weekend of 2013?)
MPAA Rating: R for strong pervasive crude and sexual content including dialogue, graphic nudity, language, some violence and drug use
Cast: Halle Berry, Kate Winslet, Terrence Howard, Elizabeth Banks, Uma Thurman, Richard Gere, Hugh Jackman, Johnny Knoxville, Naomi Watts, Gerard Butler, Emma Stone
Credits: 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.