How do you even begin to write about a movie like Movie 43? It’s a collection of unrelated comedy short films all tied together by a framing device in which hack director Charlie Wessler (Dennis Quaid) finds himself in the office of Griffin Schraeder (Greg Kinnear). The meeting is a simple one: Wessler wants to pitch a movie, sell the movie, and get the movie sold. He’s willing to do this by any means necessary, even nefarious means. As he goes through his list of ideas and pitches, his intelligent, heart-felt movie becomes, well… Movie 43.
The closest comparison most people will make is to the seminal catch-all comedy classic Kentucky Fried Movie. However, it’s really more like the follow-up/unofficial sequel Amazon Women On The Moon. Whereas Kentucky Fried Movie is one director (John Landis) and three writers (Zucker Abrams Zucker of Police Squad/The Naked Gun fame), Amazon Women On The Moon is multiple directors all of whom tackle different segments of the movie. Movie 43 has both multiple unconnected writers and multiple unconnected directors, all of whom tackle different shorts that are all different in tone and style.
The good thing about a loosely-connected movie is that if a skit doesn’t work, it will at least be over soon and the next skit can begin. In the case of Movie 43, most of the skits don’t work, or are mildly amusing at best. The hodgepodge of directors covers both decorated comedy professionals like Peter Farrelly and Bob Odenkirk to helmers better known for other genres, like Brett Ratner and James Gunn and even relatively inexperienced faces like Elizabeth Banks. Even Amazon Women On The Moon cameo Griffin Dunne directs a short! It’s a big mixed bag of styles, with some people doing standard comedy, some doing spoofs of other things, and James Gunn taking on a weird Who Framed Roger Rabbit? style live-action/cartoon hybrid.
The cast is also a weird collection of A-list personalities who are probably too good for this movie. We’ll do a quick run-down of the most noteworthy in the sub-skits: Hugh Jackman and Kate Winslet on a disaster of a blind date, Liev Schreiber and Naomi Watts as a pair of overprotective parents, Chris Pratt and Anna Faris as a couple on the cusp of a big change in their relationship, Kieran Culkin and Emma Stone as a pair of dirty-laundry-airing lovers, Richard Gere and Kate Bosworth as techno-geeks behind a hot new piece of technology, a laundry list of people as super heroes (Justin Long, Jason Sudekis, Uma Thurman, Bobby Cannavale, Kristen Bell, and John Hodgman) at a speed dating event, and about a million other folks in a variety of weird settings.
Still, despite the great cast, the writing is not up to par. The best skit of the bunch comes near the end of the movie in the form of Terrence Howard as an inspiring basketball coach in the segregated 50s, but the rest of them are a mish-mash of good ideas poorly executed, bad ideas well executed, and bad ideas poorly executed. I imagine if you like scatalogical humor then maybe you’ll get some chuckles out of some of the scenes, but the majority of them seemed to fall flat, at least with the audience in my screening.
It’s tough to give an overall rating for a film that’s basically bits and pieces stuck together. For every successful skit, there are two that don’t really work or that overstay their simple premise. Unsurprisingly for a movie with 21 different credited writers and directors, this movie is an inconsistent mess. There’s nothing uniform, except for perhaps disappointment. You would think that, given four years of production on the film, they would have found time to write better jokes…
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