Movie 43 | Movie review
Inspired outrageousness is scarce in this star-studded omnibus comedy.
Neither the Kentucky-fried turkey its unceremonious release suggests nor the kind of daring film maudit that seems destined to be reassessed decades hence, Movie 43 is mostly just a whiff. Fourteen absurdly star-studded sketches are all too over- or underplayed to get the laughs they need. Cameos routinely substitute for gags; only the self-satisfaction is a constant. The movie sets the bar low with its framing story, in which a crazy man (Dennis Quaid) delivers his movie pitch to a feckless studio operative (Greg Kinnear). Most of the subsequent segments consist of scenes from his opus, although—with episodes jammed together as awkwardly as shattered Russian dolls—conceptual coherence is not Movie 43’s strongest suit. Ditto quality: For every chapter that elicits a smile (playing a man with scrotum hanging from his neck, Hugh Jackman garners far more sympathy than he does as Jean Valjean), there’s another that’s only theoretically funny (the Brett Ratner–directed bit in which Johnny Knoxville and Seann William Scott taunt Gerard Butler’s kidnapped leprechaun).
The actors are mostly troupers: Liev Schreiber and Naomi Watts seem to enjoy playing the world’s worst homeschooling parents, whose curriculum for their son includes incestuous makeouts. Anna Faris gamely insists that boyfriend Chris Pratt take the next step in their relationship—into coprophila. But the film throws cold water on its proceedings, with sketches that go on too long (“Superhero Speed Dating,” with Jason Sudeikis as a bro-ish Batman taunting Justin Long’s timid Robin) or that wimp out by moralizing (as when Chloë Grace Moretz has a menstrual accident in a house full of dudes). The main instance of inspired outrageousness, in one of the vignettes helmed by producer Peter Farrelly, comes near the end, as Halle Berry’s blind-date round of truth-or-dare with Stephen Merchant escalates into a nasty competition. The results might not please Buñuel, but they add up to one of the few installments worthy of the designation movie.