I decided to incur the wrath of the internet today. I have never been interested in contrarianism for its own sake; I have never defended or criticized a film that I didn’t feel strongly about. It is with this outlook that I say Movie 43, a sketch film that has earned universal derision from the public and from critics, wasn’t the worst movie I’ve ever seen.
Don’t get me wrong: Movie 43 is terrible. Some intrepid writers have tried to give the film credit as meta-commentary on the state of Hollywood, but I caution those fine cinephiles that such endeavors are a waste of precious time and effort. Judging by its haphazard production process, it seems little thought went into Movie 43 whatsoever. It is most shocking to know that the Farrelly brothers had anything to do with this film. Remember their loving homage to dimwitted comedy stars of days past in Dumb and Dumber? Or the charming fraternal saga of conjoined twins in Stuck on You? Or how about the nostalgia trip that was The Three Stooges?
But then, I would hesitate to call this a Farrelly brothers film in the first place. Although they specialize in gross-out humor, Peter and Bobby Farrelly have surprisingly tasteful style. Movie 43 just doesn’t show that restraint and sensitivity, separating it from a true Farrelly effort. The movie also features twelve other directors. The brothers themselves only directed the storyline featuring Greg Kinnear and Dennis Quaid, a thread not even present in foreign cuts of the films. It is unfortunate that the Farrelly name is attached to this disaster, but I would hope that any discerning viewer would know that the fault lies at the feet of more than just two people.
Goodness knows there’s more than enough fault to go around. I think I chuckled twice during the entire film. Once was at the sheer novelty of seeing the talented Hugh Jackman and Kate Winslet engage in some of the basest material I’ve ever seen on-screen – that didn’t last. Later, Liev Schreiber and Naomi Watts elicit a brief smile with their unorthodox parenting methods. I would hesitate to call either of these scenes funny, but they get a few points for not making me roll my eyes in irritation. The rest of the sketches feel like they were pulled straight out of conversations on middle school playgrounds, which should give you an idea how piercingly intellectual they are. They were designed to shock and appall, but I mostly found myself hanging my head in dejected silence.
It almost pains me to say that Movie 43 somehow isn’t without its redeeming features. While its myriad sketches all toe the line between awful and dick-wilting, they thankfully fly by at breakneck speed. Ironically, Movie 43 has a better grasp on the problem of one-note gags than the modern incarnation of Saturday Night Live. Where the latter hammers on one joke for far too long, Movie 43 offers quick respite from its sporadic terribleness. Note that this is faint praise, because at least Saturday Night Live is sometimes funny.
As sad as it is, that is what keeps Movie 43 from finding kin with the worst Hollywood abominations. Where Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer seem to have come up with their films over lunch, Movie 43 exhibits minor foresight with its random sight gags and loosely connected sketches. Likewise, Happy Madison films like Grandma’s Boy find themselves stuck on one godawful premise which they beat bloody until all you can do is pray it ends soon. Movie 43 features similarly prepubescent stories, but no single thread lasts the full 90 minutes. None of these factors make this a good movie, but they offer a baby step up from the bottom of the barrel.
The issue with Movie 43 isn’t its sub-par content or its desperate offensiveness. No, the real issue is that it offers absolutely nothing to the world of comedy. By extension, I doubt it will add anything to your life. If movies are meant to tap into a universal sense of empathy, as Roger Ebert once said, this movie does exactly nothing right. But it is fast paced and brief, a fleeting thought in the grand scheme of cinematic history. If you hate it, rest assured that it will be erased from our collective consciousness in short order. If you love it, well – I’m sure you’ll figure out which shapes go in which holes soon enough. Third grade is waiting for you.
Movie Verdict: Fail
RT Score: 30%