dir. Peter Farrelly, 10 overqualified others and Brett Ratner
Release Date: Jan 25, 13
I have a theory about Movie 43. You know how old wisdom says that every actor has at least one huge flop in their career? Now, while a few of the many, many stars in the film have already had their one flop (nobody’s forgotten Catwoman yet, Halle Berry), a sizable percentage of the cast is only now coming into their peak career periods. Therefore, Movie 43 is less a film than a communal blood pact to get all inevitable failures out of the way in one unwatchable fell swoop.
Wait. I have a second, simpler theory about Movie 43. Peter Farrelly, disheartened by years of audiences ignoring the comic genius of such fare as Hall Pass, decided to take his frustrations out on America and every actor in Hollywood.
Movie 43’s central framing device involves a flop-sweating producer (Dennis Quaid, bizarre and yet kind of funny) forcibly pitching a series of increasingly insane ideas to Greg Kinnear, and these dozen short “treatments” form what resembles a Saturday Night Live episode written by an ADHD-stricken 12-year-old who was also furiously cycling through Internet porn at the time. But back to the theory. Farrelly, who directed the framing skits himself, used his goodwill from the 1990s to sign a ton of A-list stars, past and present, only to saddle them with a film that is not only complete and utter shit, but then has the audacity to actually make reflexive comments on its being complete and utter shit. Kinnear frequently breaks the fourth wall to denigrate Quaid’s pitches, and it’s in this smug sense of Farrelly being in on how bad the film is that the true meaning of Movie 43 can be found. Farrelly forces audiences to witness gems like Anna Faris demanding that her real-life husband Chris Pratt poop all over her, and when they don’t laugh because what in the hell was anybody involved with this thinking, the real joke isn’t anywhere onscreen. It’s that he got you to sit down and pay $11 to watch it in the first place.
But oh, if only poop jokes were as low as Movie 43 sinks. In the simplest terms, this is a movie that’s 15 years too late to even grope at relevance. Do not be fooled; Movie 43 would suck no matter when it was released. However, the whole film carries itself with an air of unearned transgression, the way that young boys sometimes sit in a circle and describe increasingly visceral sex acts just to see who gags first. It’s hard to be shocking when the intention to shock is completely transparent. In a post-Internet era, where “2 Girls, 1 Cup” is just a click away and new levels of perversion reveal themselves every day, skits like the one in which Johnny Knoxville and Seann William Scott fight a leprechaun Gerard Butler for his gold (while swearing up a storm) just fall on their faces with only the cavernous vacuum of silence awaiting them.
Most of Movie 43’s bits wouldn’t survive on Funny or Die, which makes you wonder, again, how Farrelly assembled this cast. Perhaps it’s because some of the bits actually have potential. Chloe Moretz’s, in which her first period causes stumbling panic for her boyfriend and his older brother, is a good setup in dire need of a better punchline than “OMG periods sure are gross!” The same goes for the vignette in which Liev Schreiber and Naomi Watts home-school their son, but make sure to subject him to the many humiliations of high school so that he doesn’t miss out on anything. Many of the skits actually start well, but ultimately cave in to their worst, most pointless instincts, like having Jason Sudekis (in an embarrassingly low-rent Batman costume) comment on Supergirl’s genital grooming.
But then again, maybe people who’d quibble over these things aren’t Movie 43’s target demographic. Logic would suggest, then, that the film is too dirty for the age group that’d actually find it funny. But perhaps not. At the screening I attended, two youngish men wearing track pants and beanies indoors chugged Red Bull and audibly guffawed at the film from start to finish, occasionally interjecting with comments like “HAHAHAHA TAMPAX” in response to a faux tampon commercial. So, maybe there is an audience for Movie 43. If you find hilarity in the very idea of tampons, blowjob fairies, buck-toothed Asian men, the female body, the concept of sex itself, people getting hit in the nuts, people forcing other people into fellatio or people evacuating their bowels onto others, then get ready. Your manna from heaven has arrived.