Generally, when a film has its release date pushed back, it’s not a good sign. Being released in January is even worse news. Go ahead and look up major studio movies from January on Rotten Tomatoes, sometime. The month is a dumping ground. Weirdly, “Movie 43” avoids some (but not most) of the standard tripe.
The framing device is that of a story pitch to a producer. Dennis Quaid (looking like a homeless Justin Bieber) rattles off a string of ideas to Greg Kinnear’s studio executive character. The stories are increasingly absurd and depraved, as is to be expected from someone who molested his way onto the lot.
How do you even review a movie like “43,” really? The style is not unprecedented; David Wain’s “The Ten” was also a series of shorts, in 2007. Unlike “The Ten,” however, “43’s” shorts share no link or common thread. Since “43” has so many sketches (but not 43 of them), the best way to tackle it is probably to look at a few stand-outs.
The worst one is easily Emma Stone’s bit in a grocery store. The extent of wit on display is naughty words and semi-bizarre sex acts (never seen) that you could witness after spending thirty seconds on the Internet. The most cringe-inducing ones are Chloe Grace Moretz’s first period and Anna Farris’ scat fetish. Far and away, the best short is Liev Schreiber’s and Naomi Watts’ attempts to give their homeschooled teenager a typical high school experience, delivering all sorts of psychological abuse in the process.
The humor throughout is extremely subjective, being absurdist and offensive. This reviewer was the only one laughing at a fake PSA about abusing the children that work on the inside of vending machines (you have to see it), while they were stone silent during “Truth or Dare” with Halle Berry. Mostly, the film is bad. “It reminded me a lot of ‘Tim and Eric,’ in a bad way,” says Jessica Plescia, a graduate student in occupational therapy. Actually, she’s not far off: the constant need the film has for being outrageous gets in the way of a lot of talented people. If the writers were just allowed to make skits however they wanted, instead of trying to gross out or offend as many people as possible, it could have had a bigger payoff.
Ultimately, “Movie 43” is a mixed bag, and not one that errs on the side of “quality”. You’re really rolling the dice, if you catch this one in theaters.