Once upon a time, there were three talented screenwriters who graced the screen with some of the funniest films in the history of the media. The trio known as ZAZ (or Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker) were behind some of the most revered comedies of all time, including Airplane!, The Naked Gun and The Kentucky Fried Movie. That last film was a sketch comedy movie that was released in 1977, forever setting the bar for films of that ilk.
Jump forward a few decades and here we are in 2013, with Movie 43 seeking to find its own niche in the sketch comedy genre. With a cast that features a laundry list of talented performers and a group of big-name directors behind the camera, it should be statistically impossible to screw this up. Think about Wet Hot American Summer and The Ten (maybe not so much the latter, but in this case, it works).
Let me put this plainly: Movie 43 is an awful, terrible, horrible, vile film. A group of true talent, headed by the more than capable Peter Farrelly, can’t save this movie because it fails on every fundamental level of what comedy should be. Everything that was done right in the classic ZAZ film is defiled here, with a sense of humor that would drive even the most immature viewer to insanity. This isn’t comedy that might “go over your head” or is too vulgar to be enjoyed – this just isn’t comedy.
Movie 43 is made up of several short skits with an overarching “story” stringing them along, and as should be expected, the results are extremely hit or miss. Celebrities are littered throughout each of the shorts, which contain numerous vulgar moments meant to shock audiences. Plots range from a man with testicles on his chin to a girl having her first period around her idiot friends, but all of them involve idiocy to a shameful degree. Not only are they bad, but the skits are forgettable: I saw this movie only hours ago and can hardly remember half of them.
It would be a waste of time to talk about each skit individually, because previews and commercials have pretty much explained the plots for all of them in the two minutes they’re given. I feel like I should file a lawsuit against the writers, since most of the plots seem to originate from jokes me and my friends made at the middle school lunch table. Poop, farts, sex and stereotypes are all beaten to death here, and in only about ten minutes in too. This might be a record for how long it took to realize a movie was lacking humor. Every time the balls under Hugh Jackman’s chin swung, my brain would mash itself against my skull, trying to escape.
The impressive ensemble cast is disappointing here too, but what a cast it is! We’ve got Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Emma Stone, Anna Faris, Richard Gere, Elizabeth Banks, Terrence Howard, Liev Schreiber, Naomi Watts, and so many more all in one place. But even though Movie 43 plays off of our urge to see our favorite celebrities let loose for a while, you can tell that those involved wanted out badly. At one point in the movie, a character points a gun at the camera and warns someone that if he tries to leave, he’ll pull the trigger. I honestly felt like it was the film pleading for audiences to stay, because God knows half of the theater I was in hadn’t.
Honestly, I have never been in such a silent theater during a comedy in my whole life. The audience was dead silent, and it was almost embarrassing to watch each punchline fall flat with no support from anyone. One particular gentleman, who reeked of weed, laughed maybe twice during the film. Forgive my jumping to conclusions, but if someone in that state can’t even muster up more than a few giggles, how are sober audiences expected to find any enjoyment?
Allow me to be generous for just a second: I will admit to laughing a few times. Some of the commercials presented between skits were comical, and I’ll even go so far to say that a skit or two provided chuckles. But if only two skits out of the whole shebang can do that, that leaves more than ten others that are wasted opportunities.
What’s most disappointing about Movie 43 is the wasted potential. One phrase kept running through my head during the showing: Funny Or Die. If each of these skits had had their times cut to about two minutes long and were posted online individually, they could have been hilarious. That’s why the commercials and extremely short skits worked best: the joke came and went, without having to be beaten into our skulls for extended periods. This is a film that treats its audience like they’re all idiots, and if you pay money to watch this trainwreck, then maybe it’s not too far off the mark.
Look, here’s the bottom line: if you enjoy a movie where a man craps all over the street after getting hit by a car, a mother makes out with her son and a man has testicles under his chin (I can’t stress that enough), then by all means, go enjoy yourself. If you have a shred of self-respect and dignity, you’ll save yourself from even thinking about seeing this stinking pile of manure.