There was a strange air of mystery surrounding Movie 43 before it was released. It wasn’t screened for critics or given any previews and so nobody was quite sure what to expect once it was unleashed. It turns out the only real mystery surrounding this movie is how the hell anybody managed to convince the stellar cast to take part in such a colossal misstep.
The basic set up is thus, a pair of teenage boys attempt to play a prank on one of their little brothers which sees them convincing him that the sickest movie ever made exists in some far-flung corner of the internet and he has to help them find it. Its name, Movie 43. While he’s doing that, they will steal his laptop and infect it with a wealth of viruses by visiting various porn sites. However, it turns out that Movie 43 may just be real after all and the boys begin to find snippets of video from the movie online. Cue an extremely tenuous excuse to deliver a series of depraved and disgusting “comedy” sketches involving numerous Hollywood stars.
It would appear that the American release of the movie has a different loose overarching sequence which instead involves an unstable screenwriter pitching various story ideas to a film executive. I’m not entirely sure why they went with this alternative linking sequence for the UK release as it is not only completely laugh free, but also really struggles to remain coherent. Could the original option really be any worse?
I think one of the most startling aspects of Movie 43 is the astonishing regularity with which it aims for humour and misses spectacularly. It’s hard to believe that at some point during the filming of the various scenes at least one or two of the stars didn’t either recognise the horror show they were involved with and walk away, or at the very least suggest a vigorous re-write. To be extremely blunt I can safely say that barring the odd light titter here and there, and I do mean the lightest of light titters, it just is not remotely funny.
I won’t spoil all of the surprises for you here, but a few of the particularly cringe inducing sequences involve Hugh Jackman with balls on his neck, Anna Faris convincing Chris Pratt to poop on her and Chloe Grace Moretz getting her period in front of two panicking teenage boys. Throw in some incest, nudity and a masturbating animated cat (really) and you have a recipe for a film which is trying to be edgy and daring, but which just comes across as desperate.
There are a few sketches which aren’t entirely terrible. The Gotham speed-dating sequence which sees Jason Long’s Robin trying to meet women despite Jason Sudeikis’ Batman’s best efforts to sabotage his chances, raises a few smiles. Likewise a sketch involving Steve Merchant and Halle Berry entering into a rapidly escalating game of dares on a first date is moderately amusing before running out of steam ever so slightly towards the end. Even these fail to generate anything remotely resembling a full on belly laugh however.
The project was produced and co-directed by Peter Farrelly for whom the likes of Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary suddenly seem like a millions years ago now. With a film like Movie 43 the problem is that one incredibly tasteless gross-out scene per movie kind of works. The audience groans and a few maybe even watch through their fingers. It’s vile, it’s sick, but it’s also one of the things you talk about afterwards. However when the whole film is a series of such moments, it not only loses its impact, it also gets very boring very fast.
I really don’t understand why the aforementioned stars and the likes of Kate Winslet, Elizabeth Banks, Emma Stone and Richard Gere agreed to take part. I can’t see it being for the financial reward as the film’s budget was fairly low and it certainly can’t have been down to the strength of the material. Who knows what moment of madness drove them to sign on for Movie 43. All I know is that in the case of each and every one of them, I’m not so much angry, just extremely disappointed.