Similar films: Scary Movie
Stars: Anna Faris, Kate Winslet, Kristen Bell, Gerard Butler, Emma Stone, Uma Thruman, Elizabeth Banks, Hugh Jackman, Johnny Knoxville, Halle Berry
Genre: Sketch Comedy
Along perhaps with A Haunted House this is the easy film of 2013 to hate. But I still tried to give it a chance when I watched in on Netflix. Unfortunately, it really is just that bad. It's awful.
I like Absurdist Sketch Comedies. I foolishly had a slimmer of hope that this may be a sort of throwback to great films like And Now for Something Completely Different, The Meaning of Life, or The Kentucky Fried Movie, with the hilarious humor of something like Airplane!, The Naked Gun, or Top Secret!. Not the case. The Absurdist Parody truly died with things like Scary Movie and Epic Movie. Gone are the days of Monty Python and Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker, and all we are left with is Seltzer-Friedberg, the Wayans Bros., and of course the Farrelly Bros. Movie 43 is merely a continuation of this unfunny trend.
And unfunny is really all it is. I have a dark, arguably twisted humor; I often laugh at things that most would consider to be in bad taste or even sick. If something is tasteless and funny then I'll laugh at it. But when something like Movie 43 comes along, which is tasteless but unfunny, then what's the point? The sketches in this film just aren't funny. They're unfinished jokes. They set up a scenario and go nowhere with it. The situation never works with the humor, like, say, a Flying Circus sketch would. 94 minutes later and I'm still waiting for the punchline. But there is none.
And the humor itself seemingly attempts to shock, but it does so in the worst possible way. Films like Airplane! or Naked Gun constantly shocked the audience, but they didn't do so with vulgarities and period blood, they did it with the unexpected, the surreal. Wikipedia describes Surreal Humor as "arising from a subversion of audience's expectations, so that amusement is founded on unpredictability, separate from a logical analysis of the situation. The humor derived gets its appeal from the fact that the situation described is so ridiculous or unlikely." It takes wit to craft comedic literalisms and illogical yet clever punchlines. Movie 43 may be absurd, with things like leprechauns and neck balls, but it never utilizes those things to form a joke; those things are the jokes.
A good Absurdist Comedy will make the audience laugh by playing with their expectations. Shocking, surprising, and amusing the viewer when they bring the nonsensical out of something completely ordinary. A situation that people are used to seeing play out in other films or in their own lives will be used to show the viewer something in a different way, and make them laugh while doing it. This is where Movie 43 fails. It tries to shock with mere vulgarities and taboos, but in that it becomes so very predictable. It never shows you anything from a new perspective, it never turns the ordinary into the extraordinary, it never surprises you with an actual joke. In one sketch a girl wants her boyfriend to poop on her; that's the shocking part, but I know where it's going to end before it even gets there: with a bunch of poop everywhere. Movie 43 starts with the surprises, and thus its punchlines never surprise. A movie like Airplane! will start with the regular and explore the irregular through that, always ending on a hilarious and unpredictable punchline, that isn't so much a lack of logic as it is a twisting of logic; unexpected but never random. A bit from Airplane!:
"You got a letter from headquarters this morning."
"What is it?"
"It's a big building where generals meet, but that's not important."It's a simple joke and hardly one of Airplane!'s funniest, but it's a good example of a play on casual reasoning; the shock comes from the defiance of expectations. When he asks what is it we naturally understand that he's talking about the letter, not about headquarters. But the film shows you a different way of looking at it. Movie 43 says: hey wouldn't it be funny if a guy had balls on his neck, or if a girlfriend wanted her boyfriend to poop on her, or if some guy actually caught a leprechaun; but it never does anything with those ideas. It never forms an actual joke. Those things are unexpected, sure, and yes they may be ridiculous and unlikely, but they're also random and directionless. It starts with the punchline instead of building up to it.
The amount of wasted talent in this film exceeds perhaps any other movie ever made. There's some great actors in here, but the film never demands any worthwhile acting from them anyway. It's embarrassingly unfunny, tasteless without wit, and justifies itself by pretending to be satirical (it's not). It's not "a Kentucky Fried Movie for the modern age," as the producer described it. It's just a shitty modern age comedy. There's not many movies worse than this one.
Reportedly, Trey Parker, Matt Stone, and the Zucker Bros. were initially involved with the film but eventually all backed out. It's not hard to imagine why. While I'm sure we would have gotten a slightly better film if they had stayed on board, I'm also glad they didn't waste their talents and soil their names on something so pointless.