What’s more offensive? A movie filled with bad jokes about incest, racism, sexism, bodily fluids and homosexuality? Or the dozens of famous performers who agreed to be filmed saying those bad jokes out loud willingly for scale?
After suffering through Movie 43, I can’t decide. Nevertheless, this laughless debacle is a strong candidate for Worst Movie Of All Time. If you value your life, you’ll avoid this cinematic monstrosity at all costs.
Dennis Quaid plays a desperately psychotic screenwriter who manages to convince a wimpy movie executive (Greg Kinnear) to hear his pitch for a new movie. With a straight face, he claims it will be smart and witty and have heart. Like The Help.
But here’s the thing. He doesn’t pitch a proper feature. He pitches a series of bizarre shorts instead. And they’re all terrible.
In the first one, Kate Winslet is fixed up with an overachieving New Yorker (Hugh Jackman) for a dinner date. He’s on the cover of a local magazine. The headline asks why is he still single. It turns out he has a ball sack attached to his neck. Mystery solved.
At the restaurant, however, Winslet appears to be the only one who notices his deformity. She gingerly tries to find out what the deal is but Jackman always thinks she’s talking about something else. She should’ve asked why they agreed to do this humiliating scene together.
If this sight gag sounds familiar, that’s because it was originally used in one of the Men In Black movies. (Remember the Ballchinia alien? Now that was funny.) But Movie 43 isn’t interested in making you laugh. Its real agenda is testing your endurance for gross stupidity.
And so, for many painful minutes, there are several shots of poor Jackman with that fake ball sack on his neck as poor Winslet tries not to dwell on it and vomit.
Then, mercifully and without resolution, it’s on to the next pitch from Quaid. A couple (Liev Schreiber & Naomi Watts) entertains another couple (Julie Ann Emery & Alex Cranmer) who just moved into their neighbourhood. We learn that Schreiber & Watts home school their teenage son Kevin (Jeremy Allen White) with a disturbing twist. They live to humiliate him at every possible moment.
The idea is to simulate a real high school experience for him straight out of Welcome To The Dollhouse. Kevin gets bad marks, hazed, bullied and sexually humiliated on a daily basis by both his parents. How bad does it get? He gets deflowered by his own mother.
Next pitch. Chris Pratt from Parks & Recreation is about to propose to his girlfriend of 16 months (Anna Faris from Scary Movie) when she suggests he defecate on her.
And that’s when Greg Kinnear cries uncle. He tries to throw Quaid out of his office but this nutjob has a gun and a grenade. Kinnear pretends to not have the power to greenlight a movie. Quaid is undeterred. So Kinnear proposes they ask his boss (rapper Common, if you can believe it) for permission. Common wonders why he’s interrupting his meeting with Seth MacFarlane. (MacFarlane’s pitch is no better than anything Quaid proposes, by the way.) He also wonders why Kinnear can’t just be a man and say yes to Quaid. Then, he inexplicably announces that he had sex with his wife.
Suddenly tired of being emasculated, Kinnear entertains more of Quaid’s dopey ideas – the creepy couple in the grocery store; the young girl who freaks out her makeout partner, her brother, their dad and her dad by having her first period at an inopportune moment; a pervy Batman ruining Robin’s speed dates; a kidnapped, tortured leprechaun; Halle Berry and Stephen Merchant (HBO’s Hello Ladies) trying to one-up each other with boring truths and obnoxious dares during a blind date – while plotting his revenge.
Quaid also suggests commercials in between these shorts: a Tampax ad involving models and a ravenous shark; teary-eyed little kids hiding in ATMs, vending machines and photocopiers; the dangerous iBabe.
At no point do any of these segments produce a genuinely inspired laugh. Not one. You just sit there incredulous that all this major talent (some of whom have won Oscars) were perfectly ok subjecting themselves to such inanity. Then you remember this is Hollywood where embarrassing actors is a treasured pastime.
The last two segments – a basketball coach (Terrance Howard) telling his insecure team they’ll beat the White Knights purely because they’re all black (it’s set in 1959); a perverted cartoon cat’s hate-filled jealousy towards his owner’s girlfriend – are just as gruesome. (Another segment, one involving a guy fucking dead bodies, was wisely excised. Even hacks have their standards.)
If there’s one recurring theme that’s more tired than the rest (and there are plenty to choose from), it’s the anti-gay material. In the real world we’re finally starting to appreciate and accept the LGBT community for who they really are: good and decent folk who just happen to be attracted to their own sex. They are not a threat in any shape or form to us easily frightened, often misguided heteros.
And yet in this movie, man-on-man blowjob jokes, particularly in the context of coercion and humiliation, are so unbearably plentiful even a straight guy like me is offended. (Don’t get me started on Stephen Merchant’s unfortunate tattoo.)
The fact that certain characters in this movie complain about some of these awful jokes without offering any biting satirical counterpoints of their own greatly increases your burgeoning depression.
There’s nothing more unpleasant than a humourless comedy. Movie 43 might be the worst one ever made.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, April 20, 2014