‘Movie 43’ is shockingly short of laughs
Updated: January 30, 2013 10:42AM
Unlikely as it may seem, this almost unbelievably bad and mostly unfunny sketch comedy omnibus, which tanked at the box office and has collected near-universal winces from critics, starts out with something like promise... if you can imagine that a blind-date sketch involving a man with testicles on his neck wouldn’t immediately send you running for the exit.
It helps that the man with the inopportunely placed appendages is Hugh Jackman (in this case, the strategy of having A-list stars participate in shockingly vulgar scenarios pays off nicely) playing a suave, urbane, handsome and successful bachelor squiring Kate Winslet to an upscale restaurant. And expressing mild befuddlement as his date becomes increasingly apoplectic, because no one else in the place notices anything ... out of place.
It also helps that “The Catch” was directed by Peter Farrelly, one half of the Farrelly Brothers team that produced such early shock-comedy hits as “Dumb and Dumber” and “There’s Something about Mary.” And that “The Catch” had playable comic elements built in, namely Jackman’s innocent incomprehension and Winslet’s mounting hysteria.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case for most of the remaining dozen or so vignettes in “Movie 43,” which were filmed by a total of 12 directors, all recruited by Farrelly in the name of his early inspirations: the transgressive 1970s sketch-comedy collections “The Groove Tube” and “Kentucky Fried Movie.” There’s not even much comic oomph in Farrelly’s wraparound sketch involving Dennis Quaid as a crazed has-been director pitching the film as a “classic comedy with heart” and forcing studio exec Greg Kinnear to listen to every sketch — at gunpoint.
Most, if not all, of the others are one-joke scenarios on the level of a “Saturday Night Live” sketch — only far, far sketchier — that quickly become tedious because the only thing they have going for them is shock value. A few are intermittently amusing, such as first-daters Stephen Merchant and Halle Berry urging each other on to increasingly outrageous acts in “Truth or Dare.” A few, you’re likely to wish you could purge from your memory, such as Anna Faris and Chris Pratt as a couple preparing to move their relationship to the next level, involving an explosive salute to coprophilia. And others just don’t work at all, such as Batman, Robin, Superman, Supergirl and Wonder Woman, etc. (played by Uma Thurman, Jason Sudeikis, Justin Long and Kristen Bell among others) raunching it up in “Superhero Speed Dating.”
The frustrating thing about “Movie 43” is that most of the sketches are good for at least one or two laughs (mixed with groans), simply because they are so appallingly crude. At some point, you laugh because you can’t believe what you’re seeing or that you’re watching it. They never reach the comic heights — or depths — of “Groove Tube” or “Kentucky Fried,” however, because back then those films really were something new. They were truly shocking — and shockingly funny if you happened to be an adolescent male at the time. And each sketch trampled long-standing taboos.
The trouble with “Movie 43,” apart from its comic ineptitude, is that there’s nothing shocking anymore about being shocking. It’s commonplace now, on the radio, in TV sitcoms and in hard-R rated movie comedies.
The safe bet here is to wait until “Movie 43” comes out on DVD if you’re curious. But if you do go to see it in a theater, just remember: Nobody’s putting a gun to your head to make you stay.