Twelve gross, sketchy sketches in search of the bottom of the barrel, “Movie 43” expends an incredible amount of poop and big-name talent in the service of an all-star embarrassment.
Aiming for the raunchy, anarchic spirit of such ’70s relics as “Kentucky Fried Movie” and “The Groove Tube,” this hodgepodge omnibus draws together a cabal of directors (ranging from big guns such as Brett Ratner and Peter Farrelly to actor/directors like Griffin Dunne and Elizabeth Banks) to cobble together a dirty dozen “SNL”-style skits whose only unifying factor seems to be a devious determination to offend.
Employing a lame framing narrative with Dennis Quaid as a desperate, down-on-his-luck filmmaker pitching increasingly wacky projects to a timid, midlevel studio exec (Greg Kinnear), the film reels off a progressively gross sting of vignettes whose shock value decreases with each insult. Eventually and inevitably, the thing just becomes tasteless and boring.
Just a few sanitized synopses will give enough flavor to let you know if this is your cup of meat.
In Farrelly’s “Catch,” Hugh Jackman shows up as a blasé playboy on a blind date with the delicious Kate Winslet. At one point in their repast at an upscale café, romantic sparks fly and he removes his scarf to reveal a shriveled scrotum protruding from his neck.
Steve Carr’s “The Proposition” has Chris Pratt’s plan to propose to girlfriend Anna Faris sidetracked by her request to be defecated upon.
One of the more creepy vignettes, “Homeschooled,” involves real-life marrieds Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber intent on schooling their adolescent son in every aspect of the high-school experience, including bullying, humiliation, first kisses and unwanted sexual advances.
Ratner’s “Happy Birthday” features veteran jackass Johnny Knoxville surprising his pal Seann William Scott with an ill-tempered, sadistic, kidnapped leprechaun (Gerard Butler), and Steven Brill’s “iBabe,” featuring the talents of Richard Gere, Kate Bosworth and Jack McBrayer, imagines an iPod-like sex doll that mutilates teenage boys who attempt to engage it.
While there certainly are a few guilty titters and embarrassed guffaws to be had in this lowdown material, the funniest chapters come early. But as the gags get grosser and the premises dicier, the movie just turns tedious and antsy-making. You’ll be left wondering how such a high-classed array of talent could be persuaded to participate in such a low-class affair.
If it were consistently funny or satiric and convention-flaunting with a purpose, that would be one thing. But “Movie 43” is mostly just tasteless and sophomoric and sad. Stars playing dirty; it’s not pretty.
- Dennis King
Starring: Halle Berry, Kate Winslet, Elizabeth Banks, Hugh Jackman