Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Movie 43

MOVIE 43                  C+                   
USA   (90 mi)  2013  d:  Bob and Peter Farrelly           Official site       co-directors:  Elizabeth Banks, Steven Brill, Steve Carr, Rusty Cundieff, James Duffy, Griffin Dunne, Patrik Forsberg, James Gunn, Bob Odenkirk, Brett Ratner, Jonathan van Tullekin

America has always had a love affair with stupid comedy, from an assortment of cartoons to The Three Stooges or Laurel & Hardy, slapstick and physical comedy that emerged out of turn of the century burlesque and vaudeville comedy acts, to the hapless shtick of the elaborately choreographed Jerry Lewis movies of the 50’s and 60’s, the star-studded vehicle of IT’S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD (1963) where audiences could watch celebrities behave like idiots, to the more fast-paced, visual and sight gag oriented satirical comedy of AIRPLANE! (1980), to the moronic buddy movie of DUMB AND DUMBER (1994) written and directed by the Farrelly brothers, who have never been afraid to use toilet humor.  The Farrelly brothers have their hand all over this project, which began a decade and a half ago with their producer Charlie Wessler, who came up with the idea of several short films using three pairs of directors, South Park’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone, Airplane’s David and Jerry Zucker, and Peter and Bob Farrelly.  The studios, however, wouldn’t back the idea of R-rated movies targeted to teenagers, where Wessler pitched his idea to various studios, but no one understood what he was trying to do until four years ago when Peter Farrelly and producer John Penotti took their idea, along with the script for about 60 short skits to Relativity Films, which gave them the green light.  Certainly one of the most amazing feats of the film is collecting so many big name actors, from Kate Winslet and Hugh Jackman to Halle Berry, Chloë Grace Moretz, Gerard Butler, Greg Kinnear, Johnny Knoxville, Seann William Scott, Liev Schreiber, Uma Thurman, Elizabeth Banks, Kristen Bell, Anna Farris, Chris Pratt, Richard Gere, Terrence Howard, Justin Long, Dennis Quaid, Common, Jason Sudeikis, Kieran Culkin, Emma Stone, Kate Bosworth, Josh Duhamel, and Naomi Watts.  This year’s Academy Award host Seth MacFarlane plays a small part, while both Jackman and Watts are up for Academy Award nominations this year in other films.  As Peter Farrelly appropriately notes about Jackman, “You're not gonna see him at our premiere, he's got things to do.”  Most were attracted to the idea of working outside their comfort zone, also the idea they were only in small sketches, requiring short shooting schedules, also the idea they would not have to promote the film afterwards, something most actors hate to do.   

So working for scale, actors mostly donated their time for this film, knowing only their own scenes, not any of the other scaled down 16 vignettes that comprise the film.  In order to accommodate all the actors, some of whom were having second thoughts, like the South Park team, Colin Farrell, and George Clooney, who reportedly told them to “Fuck Off,” 'Movie 43': Peter Farrelly on His All-Star Cast, and Why Clooney Told Them to 'F**k Off', shooting took place only when actors were available, waiting an entire year for Richard Gere, offering the convenience of moving the entire production team closer to the actor, so the filming of the whole movie took several years.  While this film has tanked at the box office in only the first week, receiving some of the worst reviews of the year, where Richard Roeper in The Chicago Sun-Times wrote There's awful and THEN there's 'Movie 43', while Peter Howell from The Toronto Star is calling it Movie 43 review: The worst film ever gets zero stars.  David Edelstein from New York magazine asks, “Was someone holding Kate Winslet's children hostage?” Edelstein on Movie 43: Were These Actors Blackmailed to Appear in This Raunchy Fiasco?, while finally Peter Farrelly took to Twitter to defend his gross-out comedy dubbed the ‘Citizen Kane of awful’ Movie 43 director tells press to 'lighten up' after his film is savaged ..., suggesting “To the critics: Movie 43 is not the end of the world. It’s just a $6-million movie where we tried to do something different. Now back off,” adding: “To the critics: You always complain that Hollywood never gives you new stuff, and then when you get it, you flip out. Lighten up.”  Hyperbole aside, the jokes range from stupid sight gags to crudely infantile and from extremely risqué to borderline offensive gross-out humor.  Perhaps in its original conception, the movie was prefaced with the idea that several teenagers are fooling a younger kid into believing there’s a banned, black market movie out there somewhere on the Web called Movie 43, so their search to track it down leads to these randomly discovered skits, none having any relation to any others, most shot by different directors, though the Farrelly’s may have shot 3 or 4 sequences.  The opening segment with Jackman and Winslet is a classic and sets the tone for lowbar comedy, as the bar doesn’t get much lower than this—still, it’s hilarious throughout and is easily one of the better sketches, as both are superb in handling the misdirection and perfect timing.  According to Time Out Chicago critic Ben Kenigsberg, Movie 43 | Movie review - Film - Time Out Chicago, “Hugh Jackman garners far more sympathy than he does as Jean Valjean.”

Most of the rest are uneven and hit or miss, with some stronger than others, but many of these ideas are *out there,* pushing the boundaries of bad taste to the point of being off-the-charts unacceptable.  Certainly there is foul humor, profane language, and there is crude violence, but there are also some excellent special effects, especially with Halle Berry and Stephen Merchant in a blind date that veers into the surreal.  With this film along with Cloud Atlas (2012), Berry has become somewhat of a standout star in what are otherwise abysmal movie failures.  One of the few actors willing to comment on the horrible trauma of making this movie, Merchant commented, “I had to spend two days looking at Halle Berry. It was a living hell.”  Most of the sketches are framed with the idea of a desperately insane Dennis Quaid refusing to accept rejection while pitching his zany stories to a studio hack Greg Kinnear at gunpoint, apparently the only way to get his attention, a rather apt metaphor for the picture itself.  While the film is deserving of its R-rating, at its absolute worst, it is fixated on infantile fart jokes and toilet humor, an overly gross genre that in itself has always captured a certain niche in American society, but it likely turns off many, many more.  Gabe Toro of the Playlist The Playlist [Gabe Toro] has interestingly observed “characters begin to react in increasingly inexplicable ways as the narrative falls away, walking in and out of the short without rhyme or reason, until a fourth-wall breakdown in the narrative, a tactic that feels less like a comedy skit, and more like a distant, dopey relative of Dennis Hopper’s THE LAST MOVIE (1971).”  Still, it’s impressive to see so many familiar faces, even if what they’re up to is foolishly inane, where the haphazard style never feels connected to an overall whole, but thankfully, each skit is short enough that even if it doesn’t work, new faces are sure to show up in the next segment offering a completely different direction.  The film is not timid, nor does it hide its lowbrow intent, where it basically provides exactly what it sets out to accomplish, feeling somewhat experimental without a cohesive narrative, where it instead comes across like a live stand up comedy act, where often, the more outrageous you delve into the world of the bizarre, the better.  The bold tone of experimentation and outrageousness of the film does work, such as the drop dead hilarious use of a sickly perverted, X-rated, animated cat, but overall, it’s so brazenly offensive that it’s often more stupid than funny, still, nowhere near the worst ever, and actually inspired in parts.  

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