The anthology film is something rarely seen these days, so much so that my two favorites both come from ’70s: The Kentucky Fried Movie and Tales from the Crypt. The only good thing that can be brought by this style of narrative is that if one story or skit doesn’t work, the next one might. When it comes to Movie 43, there are 13 directors and probably three times as many writers working behind the scenes. Is the film anywhere near as bad as its reputation indicates? Not really. Is the film a hilarious success? Not even close. But considering how low expectations were going in — and the amount of stars, writers, and directors involved — I knew there had to be at least a few laughs.
Movie 43’s title actually refers to the wraparound segments originally used to string the skits along. It involves a couple of teens playing a prank on a sibling that winds up triggering the apocalypse. It is as bad as you’d expect and the folks behind it quickly realize it wouldn’t work, especially considering that the next plot centers around screenwriter Charlie Wessler (Dennis Quaid) trying to sell his latest screenplay to Griffin Schraeder (Greg Kinnear) who calls it a “smart movie with heart, like The Help.” What the film actually entails is ways to get as many celebrities to act as childish as possible in some of the most grotesque, “envelope pushing” ways possible. Eventually, Charlie takes Griffin at gunpoint and later we find out that even this is all just another one of the skits.
What does one get with Movie 43? You can see Kate Winslet gag at the sight of Hugh Jackman with a pair of testicles descending from his neck. Bear witness to real-life couple Liev Schreiber and Naomi Watts conducting the worst homeschooling ever and Chloe Grace Moretz getting her period at a friend’s house. If that doesn’t get your goose, maybe watching Seann William Scott and Johnny Knoxville beat up a leprechaun is more to your liking. The one sketch that really has a fantastic idea behind it features DC Comics characters at a speed-dating event gone wrong. The most laughs come from one of the end skits involving Terrence Howard as a basketball coach to the first black team in the ’60s. There are 14 skits for your perusal here. It is not a movie in the typical sense, because it’s Movie 43. And the shock and awe factor is cranked up to 11.
I’ve read that Movie 43 took about four years to film in order to accommodate the stars’ schedules. Yet that has no effect on the video quality. Framed in the 1.85:1 ratio, Movie 43 isn’t out to be the prettiest movie ever made, but what comedy ever is? There is no denying however, that the MPEG-4 AVC encode is up to bringing every pubic hair on Jackman’s testicles to life, along with every wrinkle on Quaid’s face. The only anomalies I noticed were minor banding during a black and white sequence and some slight shimmer on a hat. Otherwise, the print is as pristine as you’d expect from the digitally photographed film. Considering everything is usually well lit, there’s no noise or crush to speak of either.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is about what you’d expect it to be, too. There are barely any surround effects save for some musical cues, and the dialogue (whether you want to hear it or not) is crystal clear. English and Spanish subtitles are also included. The only special feature is a Bob Odenkirk written/directed skit, the film’s trailer, and sneak peeks of other Fox titles including: The Heat and 21 & Over. I suppose the alternate cut (which involves the horrendous teenager-inflicted Armageddon) could be considered a special feature.
Movie 43 is definitely not out to save the world and if most of the stars involved looked like they were having fun instead of being embarrassed it could have turned out much better. I would never recommend anyone wasting 94 minutes of their time with the film, but I will say that I laughed more times throughout Movie 43 than sitting through both RED 2 and R.I.P.D. in the same week. Not high praise, but at least there was something to laugh at.
Cover art and photo courtesy Relativity Media