Film Review: Movie 43

daniel cohen hates this movie…

Movie-43-Trailer-Movie-43-Poster

Plot: A crazed broken down writer (Dennis Quaid) pitches a Studio Executive (Greg Kinnear) his ridiculous shorts, as we watch them play out on screen.

I can’t remember a movie in which I walked in with lower expectations. From all the trailers and articles I’ve read about this, I came in expecting the apocalypse. And while it wasn’t quite that, make no mistake – this is a bad movie. But it’s not the worst thing I’ve ever seen in my life. The reason why Movie 43 is such a putrid effort is because this script simply isn’t funny. I wasn’t offended or grossed out by anything, it just never made me laugh. There’s actually a genesis of some good ideas here, but it’s executed so poorly. The audience I saw it with just felt kind of awkward while watching it. I heard maybe 3-4 good laughs total, and that was just from the initial shock gimmick they introduce at the beginning of each short. The one nice thing I’ll say about this movie, and what saved me from writing a rant filled review is that this somehow attracted a very talented cast, and they are trying their absolute best to make this funny. But you can only take terrible material so far.

The first short with Kate Winslet and Hugh Jackman tells you everything you need to know about this movie. Without spoiling it, Jackman and Winslet are on a first date, they both sit down at a fancy restaurant, Jackman takes off his scarf, and the biggest shock joke imaginable you can think of is hanging right there in front of the audience. Even though this is the type of comedy I absolutely loathe, I could see these two actors possibly making it work. If this was a sketch with Seth Rogen and Leslie Mann for example, I would have walked out of the movie. But because it’s with Kate Winslet and Hugh Jackman, I decided to roll with it. And while they are putting every ounce of talent they have into this scene, the material is far too lazy to be funny. The writers just said, ‘Well, here is our big shocker. We’ll just ride that and not write anything.’ This is how you do comedy wrong. And as great as these actors are, they aren’t comedians. It’s sort of like when Anne Hathaway and James Franco hosted the Oscars…extremely talented people, but they still need a good script.

And this is basically how the movie works — here’s the sketch, this is the set-up, here are the classy actors we somehow tricked into doing this, now let them save our crappy script. And as I mentioned before, some of these sketches have solid ideas. There’s one with Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber about how they home school their teenager that could have been really funny, but it teeters out quickly. And the set-up is so poorly constructed, with no clever lead in whatsoever, just straight forward dialogue.

Now sketches like that are simply lazy, but there are some that were just plain horrendous. There’s one in particular that is a complete waste of Emma Stone and Kieran Culkin, two people I really like, but they are put in one of the most underwritten unfunny scenes in the movie. The theater was in complete silence. There are other terrible sketches where at least people like Patrick Warburton are able to salvage something, as he’s automatically funny just by opening his mouth. The movie needed more people like him.

But the stuff that really got to me are when they do these random commercials throughout the film, and this is where comedy died a little inside for me. They do this ‘be nice to machines’ bit because there are kids inside fax and copy machines. I’m not kidding…that’s the joke. This sketch was so bad, you could literally put together every single bad Oscar joke you’ve ever heard, and it still wouldn’t sink to the levels that this sketch did. This is one of those scenes where the audience all looked at each other thinking the same thing…’why are we here?’ It’s maddening to think about all the directors and editors who watched the final cut and said, ‘keep this in.’ My guess is they were a bit smug: ‘If no one else gets it, they just don’t have the comedic sensibilities that we do.’ That’s the only logical explanation I have for this sketch staying in the movie.

Speaking of being smug, the whole backdrop of Dennis Quaid pitching all these dumb ideas to Greg Kinnear really pissed me off. Kinnear is playing the studio executive who basically says ‘these ideas are too offensive, you can’t do this.’ The reason why this bothered me more than anything else in this film is because the writers are basically trying to make us feel guilty for being offended and grossed out by the sketches. ‘Oh, you tight ass. Just lighten up. Someone shitting themselves is funny…get over it.’ No, no, no, no. Don’t blame me because your script isn’t funny! I was never grossed out or offended by this movie. Your jokes are cringe-worthy not because of the humor, but because they crash and burn…that’s why people are getting offended by this movie.

Now believe it or not, I’m going to say some nice things about this film. There were two sketches in here that kind of worked. One is the Superhero Speed Dating, which actually gave me some laughs. Justin Long is great as Robin, as he tries to pick up girls, but Jason Sudeikis’ Batman keeps getting in the way. Their dynamic was actually pretty good. The other one was with Halle Berry and Stephen Merchant on a blind date, and they basically have this intense Truth or Dare game. This one started out really clever, but then devolved into a malaise of predictability and shock humor. The same thing happens with the Superhero Speed Dating. Any good momentum these sketches have get completely shot early on because the writers aren’t talented enough to write good dialogue.

If you like comedy, don’t see this movie. I’m just so disgusted by how lazy this script is. The one saving grace I’ll give it is that each sketch is basically one long running joke, but the sketches don’t last too long. They are fairly quick. I guess that’s something. I don’t understand how this movie was able to get such huge names, and some of them do absolutely nothing. There’s no reason for Seth MacFarlane to show up here for five minutes. One of the Farrelly Brothers (Peter) also shows up at the end for a terrible revelation in the plot, and it just shows you where his career has gone. I appreciate actors like Kate Winslet and Hugh Jackman going outside their comfort zone, but if they wanted to be in a comedy, I wish it was something else. They are always in such serious/big budget Hollywood movies, so I guess I’ll allow them to go out on the playground for recess, and give them a pass here. And like I said, the actors are giving an honest effort, and maybe they even thought they could elevate the material and have some fun. But at the end of the day, it’s like putting Aaron Rodgers on the Jacksonville Jaguars…what is he really going to accomplish?

Rating: 4 out of 10 (Really Bad)

Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow's fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.