Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Sketchy Comedy

Year: 2013
Run Time: 1 hour 34 minutes
MPAA Rating: R

Movie 43 is sketch comedy, so for better or for worse there's at least a frequent shift in attention. For the laggiest parts of the film this is a boon, but for the few and far between "good" sketches, this means being dragged unwillingly into yet another prolonged scatological gag that is only made worse by the relative quality of the sketch before it.

There are several funny jokes in this comedy movie, thankfully. But finding them is like panning for gold downstream from a cow field. Sometimes you'll find something shiny and glittering but mostly you end up with a panful of crap.

Let's break down some sketches, shall we?

"The Pitch"

Director: Peter Farrelly
Cast: Dennis Quaid, Greg Kinnear, Common

The awful one in between all the other awful ones.

Much like in the horror anthology series V/H/S, there is an interstitial sketch that links everything together into one big heaving mass. In this case, it's a series of pitches for a movie that Charlie (Dennis Quaid) wants to get made. Studio executive Griffin (Greg Kinnear) shoots them down because, frankly, they're a better fit for awful sketch comedy than an actual feature film.

Desperate, Charlie demands that Griffin get his boss(some rapper called Common)'s approval to greenlight the script at gunpoint. Through remarkably uncomic escalation, tensions with Griffin's boss reach a boiling point and he ends up with the gun pointed right at his boss's head.

On top of this linking sketch being a grueling series of reminders of how terrible each of the sketch ideas are, it starts with an Isabella Rossellini fart joke and goes downhill from there, ending up with forced fellatio and a meta gag that is baffling even by the haggard standards of this script.

The One Good Joke: A cameo by Seth McFarlane pitching a new sitcom called "Hollacaust" is surprisingly self-aware and funny.

"The Catch"

Director: Peter Farrelly
Cast: Kate Winslet, Hugh Jackman

Beth (Kate Winslet)'s blind date goes horribly wrong when the handsome Davis (Hugh Jackman) turns out to have balls on his chin. Seriously.

Right off the bat, the movie homes in on its primary goals - getting the biggest stars they can to do the stupidest and/or grossest stuff they can think of. There's a place for grossout humor, but a script where they can't think of anything funny beyond "chin testicles" is not that place.

This film is just an endless cycle of ball joke - reaction shot - grossout that doesn't see fit to even resolve itself with a punchline. It's tedious and further proof that Peter Farrelly burnt himself out on directing There's Something About Mary, because not a single film he's directed since 1998 has had any merit whatsoever.

The One Good Joke: OK, when he's forced to kiss her on the forehead while taking a photo and they end up in her face, it's kinda funny. But it doesn't justify the total lack of direction the sketch has.


Director: Will Graham
Cast: Liev Schreiber, Naomi Watts, Jeremy Allen White

Homeschooler Kevin (Jeremy Allen White)'s parents (Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber) want him to have a totally normal high school experience - complete with emotional trauma.

OK, this one was actually pretty good. Watching this kid's parents act like petulant high schoolers to maintain the loneliness and alienation that are an essential part of the high school experience is a sharp concept.

But the trouble is, as the good gags rolled out and nothing came up to replace them, they kept going further and further in the hopes that audiences would laugh at the obscenity and not notice the absence of humor. This sketch doesn't "end" as much as it just throws in some incest jokes, runs out of steam, and dies panting on the carpet.

The One Good Joke: Kevin's mom knocks his books down in the hallway and calls him mean names.

"The Proposition"

Director: Steve Carr
Cast: Anna Faris, Chris Pratt, J. B. Smoove

Vanessa (Anna Faris) wants Jason (Chris Pratt) to move things to the next level.

Real quick: What is the sketch that you think would spring forth from the fertile imagination of the man behind Paul Blart: Mall CopDr. Doolittle 2, and a short film called Touch a Tit, Save a Tit?

Did you guess something lowbrow and inane? Close.

It's actually much much worse. 

Vanessa wants Jason to poop on her. That's it. No more comedy. After that first reveal, the sketch is just an unending conveyor belt of advice on how best to poop on your girl. Several burritos and laxatives later, he really needs to poop but she wants to savor the moment.


I can't even with this one. It's just five minutes of a guy needing to poop and then he gets hit by a car and no I'm not making that up.

The One Good Joke: I don't know if I can even keep doing this.


Director: Griffin Dunne
Cast: Kieran Culkin, Emma Stone

Neil (Kieran Culkin) is working as a cashier at a grocery store when his ex Veronic (Emma Stone) comes in. There's dirty flirting, and some of what they say is caught on the intercom.

That's it. This sketch is approximately 45 seconds long. There are no discernible jokes and the microphone seems to be able to turn itself on and off at will.

Emma Stone tries her hardest and manages to eke some laughs out of a "joke" that can't even be considered a full-fledged premise. I'm talking failing out of Premise School and huffing crack on the street-level jokesmithy here.

The One Good Joke: It's not even a joke, but Emma Stone's line delivery makes it so. Hence, it would do me no good to repeat it here.


Director: Steven Brill
Cast: Richard Gere, Kate Bosworth, Jack McBrayer

A company has created an MP3 player that looks like a naked woman, but there's a dangerous fan in the area where her vagina should be that is harming teen boys who try to get creative.

A sketch invented solely as a medium for showing boobs. Again, there's not so much "jokes" here as there is a table discussion of fans and vaginas. And nobody but Kate Bosworth realizing that this might be a bad idea.

The dialogue meanders around the room and fades into the wind, as neither the actors nor the audience really care what anybody is saying at this point.

The One Good Joke: Their solution is to run a commercial with the tagline "iBabe. Don't f*ck it."

"Super Hero Speed Dating"

Director: James Duffy
Cast: Jason Sudeikis, Justin Long, Uma Thurman

Batman (Jason Sudeikis) embarrasses Robin (Justin Long) on a blind date by being supremely inappropriate.

When your superhero parody would be just as funny (funny being a relative term here) if every one of the characters was just a regular person, you've got a problem here. It's just a cheap way to wring laughs by putting a guy in a 99 cent Batman suit and having him talk about vaginas.

And show Superman as a Guido with jizz in his hair.

Another sketch with no ending, it just cuts to black once they run out of things to say.

The One Good Joke: Supergirl (Kristen Bell) can see Batman hiding under the table as he gives Robin advice, not with her X-ray vision as he suspects, but because it's a tiny café table and his butt is sticking out.

"Middleschool Date"

Director: Elizabeth Banks
Cast: Chloë Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Patrick Warburton

Amanda (Chloë Grace Moretz) gets her first period in a house full of boys. Periods are gross.

Isn't it weird that this movie and Carrie came out the same year? Chloë is just getting her period all over the place in 2013. Although this kind of humor is played out, some of the boys' attempts to help despite not knowing anything about periods are pretty funny.

Honestly, as a cinematic directorial debut for Elizabeth Banks, she could have done a lot worse.

The One Good Joke: One of the panicking boys proffers a sponge to Amanda.

"Happy Birthday"

Director: Brett Ratner
Cast: Seann William Scott, Johnny Knoxville, Gerard Butler

In retribution for sleeping with Brian (Seann William Scott)'s girlfriend, Pete (Johnny Knoxville) captures him a Leprechaun (Gerard Butler).

Finally, a breath of fresh air. Instead of scatological humor, this sketch uses violence to disguise the fact that it doesn't actually contain jokes. At least it's a new one.

And to be fair, it does have a punchline unlike most of the other sketches. Unfortunately, the punchline has nothing to do with the actual story, isn't funny, and just... dumb! EVERYTHING IS DUMB.

The One Good Joke: Nothing. Nothing about this is funny.

"Truth or Dare"

Director: Peter Farrelly
Cast: Halle Berry, Stephen Merchant

Emily (Halle Berry) is bored of internet dating so she invites her newest blind date (Stephen Merchant) to a game of truth or dare in a Mexican restaurant instead of small talk.

This one is up there with "Homeschooling" in that it had a really great beginning! Berry and Merchant have really sweet chemistry and the sketch was promising to be quite charming before it turned right down the road of all the others, investing way too much time in crass humor including, but not limited to, a baster full of hot sauce shoved into her vagina and massive breast implants.

It's quite dispiriting, because I was really beginning to like this one.

The One Good Joke: Emily is dared to blow out the candles on a kid's birthday cake before he gets a chance to.

"Victory's Glory"

Director: Rusty Cundieff
Cast: Terrence Howard

A five minute sketch with one joke: Black people are good at basketball.

For five whole minutes.

The One Good Joke: There's only one joke and it's not good.


Director: James Gunn
Cast: Elizabeth Banks, Josh Duhamel

Amy (Elizabeth Banks)'s boyfriend Anson (Josh Duhamel) has a cat named Beezel that is in love with him to the point that it attempts murder.

Right when you think the movie's over, they shove this one on in with the end credits and Jesus Christ is it just a train wreck of biblical proportions. Have you ever wanted to see Effie Trinkett get hit by a car and then go to town on a CGI effect with a shovel? OK, maybe.

But have you ever wanted to see a cartoon cat jerk off to pictures of Josh Duhamel in a Speedo while anally penetrating itself?

You'd do well to just turn this film off after "Victory's Glory."

Actually you'd do even better just to avoid the film in its entirety.

The One Good Joke: Josh Duhamel has this on his résumé forever.

Also there's two commercial parodies, but I am not going to talk about them because WHAT THE HELL ARE COMMERCIAL PARODIES DOING IN A MOVIE. NO. NO. I HAVE REACHED THE END OF MY ROPE, GUYS.

The only reason this movie exists is for actors who want to direct to have an opportunity to try it out in a low-risk cinematic environment.

Movie 43 is 90 minutes of celebrity after celebrity being pitched into the brackish waters of bottom-feeding grossout comedy and slowly sinking into the muck. Only Emma Stone, Chloë Grace Moretz, and maybe Seth McFarlane manage to thrash themselves loose by attacking the dialogue with the power of sheer comedy.

Basically, between this film and Gary Marshall's systematic attempts to ruin beloved American holidays, there's nobody left in Hollywood to embarrass.

Sketch Ranking:

#12 "Beezel"
#11 "The Proposition"
#10 "Happy Birthday"
#9 "Victory's Glory"
#8 "The Pitch"
#7 "Super Hero Speed Dating"
#6 "iBabe"
#5 "Veronica"
#4 "The Catch"
#3 "Homeschooled"
#2 "Truth or Dare"
#1 "Middleschool Date"

But only the top 3 are any good at all.

TL;DR: Movie 43 isn't a good film.
Rating: 2/10
Word Count: 2013

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