A mirage in the cinematic desert.
Heeding the popular maxim “go big or go home,” director ensemble Steven Brill, Peter Farrelly, Will Graham, Steve Carr, Griffin Dunne, James Duffy, Jonathan Van Tulleken, Elizabeth Banks, Patrik Forsberg, Brett Ratner, Rusty Cundieff, and James Gunn attempted to surpass all previous Hollywood films in gross-out factor, resulting in their recently released film Movie 43.
Oh, how big they went. Oh, how they failed.
An exceptionally hot surface and sunlight traveling at just the right angle, if put together, form a mirage, an illusion promising water during scorching weather. Movie 43 works much in the same way: Take dumb-as-a-rock humor, heat it up under lamps and reflectors while filming, and add light from a lot of big-name movie stars to create the illusion of a good comedy (a deceptive technique used successfully in the past). In the same way a mirage holds no water, Movie 43 holds no comedy—only the crude, desperate need to entertain its viewers through shock, which during its best moments can only keep them from falling asleep, and at its worst can bore them to tears.
The different sketches of this film roll off through the framing narrative of a desperate director pitching his ideas to a studio executive. However, the only trace of a link between the sketches is the tiring use of bodily humor.
The movie spews at its viewers a gush of jokes about menstruation, farts, incest, poop, bestiality, and ball-sacks.
Though fully aware that the sketches of Movie 43 were not all going to be great, it at least seemed to promise a couple of decent ones. But, no, it only had one lone good sketch: Will Graham’s “Homeschooled,” the story of parents who emotionally scar their homeschooled son by insisting that he should have the complete high school experience—ranging from a bully’s torment (provided by his father) to an awkward first kiss (provided by his mother).
There’s a Sufi proverb that says, “In the desert, there is no sign that says, Thou shalt not eat stones”—meaning that one doesn’t have to be told something obvious. And yet, the current movie landscape is not a desert, which explains how this movie seduced its viewers into sitting through idiotic jokes by creating that mirage mentioned earlier. Perhaps both viewers and studio-execs have forgotten how to resist transitory illusions until something real comes along and need to be told the obvious:
Terrific movies are not a consequence of terrific actors.
Movie 43 may have some worth despite its crassness and vulgarity. If nothing else, it works as a temporary antidote against placing trust in films just because the cast is famous and/or talented.
The actors of this movie were not able to polish, bring out the best of, or even reframe the mediocre material they were given.
Instead, these jokes ripped these stars down to the desert of cheap comedy. While this writer still believes a lot of these actors are great at what they do, he has been immunized against the weight attached to their names. Movie 43 teaches viewers that we should see movies as a mosaic, of which actors are only a small part.
MOVIE 43 | R | 1.25.13