*. Movie 43 (the title has no meaning) was widely hailed on its release as being one of the worst movies ever made. This is a judgment that has various meanings though. For example, it can mean that the film is a good-bad movie or that it’s just terrible. I’ve often said that the real worst movies and books are ones that no one has ever seen or read because they are so dull. Those are the “just terrible” ones, whereas Plan 9 from Outer Space or Troll 2 are seen as classics of the good-bad genre.
*. Another way of being one of the worst movies ever made is to be totally incompetent and technically inept (think Manos: The Hands of Fate), or a colossal waste of talent and money (think most Hollywood blockbusters). Or “worst” can be interpreted through a political or moral lens, with the worst movie being one that’s seen as particularly objectionable on those grounds. Even classic films like The Birth of a Nation or Triumph of the Will may be considered here.
*. I think most of the reaction against Movie 43 took the line of colossal waste. Indeed, I found one pull quote from Elizabeth Weitzman in the New York Daily News that directly wrote it off in these terms (a “colossal waste of talent, time, and money”). Now in fact Movie 43 didn’t cost much (the budget was only $6 million) but the talent brought on board was surprising, and all the more surprising given what the stars were made to endure. Hugh Jackman with a pair of balls hanging from his chin? Elizabeth Banks soaked in cat piss? Halle Berry turned into a freak by plastic surgery? Well, why not. Actors like to try something new every now and then.
*. But there is new as in artistically daring, and then there’s stupid. Tony Curtis, for example, went way out on a limb playing Sidney Falco in Sweet Smell of Success. Universal even tried to talk him out of it, saying it would ruin his career. It ended up being arguably his greatest performance. That was a risk worth taking. I’m not sure what the calculation was for the all-stars here, but this sure wasn’t Sweet Smell of Success.
*. One point about the cast, however, is worth flagging. While it’s a list of A-listers, it’s not one that’s riddled with great comic talent. With better writing and in better roles some of these actors can be funny, but they aren’t comedians. Aside from the shock value of seeing them so degraded, they don’t bring anything to the table.
*. Basically this is an anthology comedy, along the lines of Kentucky Fried Movie or Amazon Women on the Moon. As each of the separate stories had different writers and directors you can expect a wide range of quality. Unfortunately, this mostly goes from the not-very-funny to the truly terrible.
*. For what it’s worth, the “Super Hero Speed Dating” episode is probably the best. That said, it’s only about the level of an average comedy skit you’d find on YouTube these days. The only part of the movie where I actually laughed out loud was seeing Chris Pratt explode into a giant shit bomb in “The Proposition.” That might also give you some idea of where the jokes are aimed at. Shit, piss, farts, menstrual blood. That’s it.
*. The lowlights aren’t the most outrageous but the dullest and most pointless. Like “Happy Birthday,” which has Gerard Butler playing a foul-mouthed leprechaun. And that’s it. That’s the joke. Gerry Butler is a foul-mouthed leprechaun. Then “Victory’s Glory” has a Black basketball team wiping the floor with a team of white guys in the 1950s. Because they’re Black. And that’s it. That’s the joke.
*. Linking this together, somewhat, is a frame story involving Dennis Quaid as a strung-out screenwriter trying to pitch all this crap to Greg Kinnear. Again there’s nothing at all funny about this.
*. Writer-producer Peter Farrelly tweeted: “To the critics: Movie 43 is not the end of the world. It’s just a $6-million dollar movie where we tried to do something different. Back off.” I’m not sure how strong a defence this is. Despite the low budget, the cast meant that this was always going to be something more than “just a $6-million dollar movie.” And I’m not sure how “different” what they were attempting was. The real hook here was that disjunction between the cast and the material, not the material itself.
*. It’s not a movie I hated. I’ve seen worse comedies. That is, comedies that were even less funny. But it’s not so bad it’s good either. Overall, I’d characterize it as just stupid and embarrassing because almost none of it works. A waste of time then. My time, and that of everyone involved.