Plenty of respected actors and even a few Oscar winners show up in “Movie 43,” a bottom-of-the-barrel scraping exercise in scatological humor, fart jokes, bathroom gags and “outrageous” behavior. A cast this talented — Kate Winslet, Naomi Watts, Emma Stone, Hugh Jackman, Greg Kinnear, Dennis Quaid, Elizabeth Banks, Halle Berry and Richard Gere are among the guilty — hasn’t sank this low in who-knows-how-long; it’s fair to say “Movie 43″ represents career lows for everyone involved.
The film — the title means nothing (cool title!) — unfolds as a series of sketches that wouldn’t make “Saturday Night Live’s” cutting room floor. Not because of their R-rated content, but because they’re simply not funny. They’re gross-out gags with nowhere to go, fart jokes for fart jokes’ sake. “Movie 43″ makes “Ted” look like Oscar material.
“Movie 43″ is framed by a sweaty, desperate-looking screenwriter (Dennis Quaid, looking awful), pitching a movie full of short sketches to a studio exec (Greg Kinnear). As he reads him the pitches — a woman (Winslet) goes on a date with a man (Jackman) with a pair of testicles hanging off his throat; a woman (Anna Faris) wants her boyfriend (Chris Pratt) to defecate on her — we see them unfold, and when Kinnear’s character storms out of the room, Quaid holds him at gunpoint and forces him to listen to the rest. The audience identifies with Kinnear, and rarely is it a good sign when viewers are made to feel like hostages in a movie theater.
In amongst the dreck — and whoo boy, does it stink — there are a few high points, relatively speaking. In one chapter, Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber are parents who home school their child, and feel it necessary to put him through all the humiliation that comes with the high school experience. Watts, who is incapable of being bad in anything, sells a kiss with her son (Jeremy Allen White), and laces it with intrigue and daring. (Watts turns in a credible performance here; talk about “The Impossible.” ) In another segment, the movie’s best, “SNL’s” Jason Sudeikis plays Batman at a Gotham City speed dating session, and he plays him as a total goof in a dumb costume. Sudeikis is funny enough to make it work, and he’s assisted by Justin Long as a hapless Robin and John Hodgman as the shoulder-shrugging Penguin.
The movie’s low points stack up one on top of another, but the worst of the bunch saddles Chloe Grace Moretz as a young girl having her first period while over at a boy’s house. The boy doesn’t know what to do, nor do any of the other men in the house, and that’s the joke. The only joke. Then they fart. Hilarious stuff! Moretz looks understandably mortified; it’s the movie’s most excruciating bit.
“Movie 43″ is fashioned after “Kentucky Fried Movie,” but where “KFM” became a cult classic, “Movie 43″ isn’t headed anywhere but to the landfill. In the midst of Oscar season, it’s a reminder of how truly awful Hollywood can be.
Rated R: For strong pervasive crude and sexual content including dialogue, graphic nudity, language, some violence and drug use
Running time: 97 minutes