Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 21, 2013)
With a cast packed chock full of big stars and created by a mix of well-known directors, 2013’s Movie 43 should’ve been a hit. Alas, stuck with terrible reviews – and a premise that may’ve confused audiences – the film bombed; it sputtered to a pathetic $8 million gross in the US. Since it only cost $6 million to make, it’ll probably turn a profit eventually, but it’ll still go down as a misfire.
Like most others, I didn’t see 43 theatrically, but its burgeoning infamy compelled me to give it a whirl on Blu-ray. 43 lacks a true plot. Instead, we see a framework in which Charlie Wessler (Dennis Quaid) tries to pitch a movie to producer Griffin Schraeder (Greg Kinnear). Wessler provides one bad idea after another, and we see these acted out in between their conversations.
Given all the hubbub that came from reviews of Movie 43, I anticipated the least funny, most offensive film of all-time. Does it live up – or down – to those expectations? No – try as hard as it might, it doesn’t achieve such epic levels of infamy.
But that doesn’t make it good - or funny, for that matter, though 43 does occasionally show promise. Actually, that might be its biggest negative: unlike completely witless disasters like Date Movie, this one comes with a few potentially amusing scenarios. Take the sequence in which two parents (Liev Schreiber and Naomi Watts) harass their homeschooled son (Jeremy Allen White) to give him the equivalent of the “real high school experience”. It’s a funny idea that works – briefly, at least.
But then it goes too far into realms of bad taste. Actually, even without some perverse elements, the skit simply runs too long, as the gag’s not good enough to sustain it. Matters go downhill when it takes the exit to Nastyville, though, and it will lose most viewers.
I admit I’ve never been a fan of “sick”/gross-out humor, but the basic presence of those elements isn’t what bothers me here. Instead, I’m displeased by the ease with which 43 tosses out those components. It feels like the movie “goes gross” not due to any logical comedic reason but instead because it doesn’t know what else to do; the filmmakers use disgusting moments as a cop-out because they can’t figure out other ways to make the jokes work.
Some of the segments are sabotaged by their basic conceits, such as the one in which a woman (Kate Winslet) finds herself on a blind date with a desirable bachelor (Hugh Jackman) with testicles that hang from his chin. I guess someone will find that funny, but it’s too dopey a notion to work for me, and the skit never exploits any real potential from it.
Again, others lose points largely because they run too long and/or go too gross. I like parts of the “Truth or Dare War” enacted by two blind daters (Stephen Merchant and Halle Berry) but again, the writers don’t know when to quit, so we’re stuck with a sequence that runs on and on.
Still, it’s hard not to be amused when one of the “dares” is to endure a reading of Moby-Dick by Jersey Shore’s Snooki, and a few other moments of legitimate cleverness pop up there.
Probably the best segment comes from “Victory’s Glory”, a skit that mocks inspirations sports movies – especially 2006’s Glory Road. Sure, it’s essentially a one-joke piece that focuses on the notion that “black guys are good at basketball”, but as the coach, Terrence Howard sells it well, and it’s fun to see some real NBA players try to act. It’s essentially the only one of the sequences that doesn’t resort to scatalogical humor and it remains short enough to avoid overstaying its welcome.
Too bad it doesn’t have more company. Again, I don’t think Movie 43 is as awful as its reputation, but that doesn’t mean I feel it offers a good experience, either. While it occasionally tosses out a funny moment, too much of it feels lazy and witless. Knee-jerk gross-out humor isn’t daring; it’s just cheap and easy, and that’s the case here too much of the time.