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Peter Farrelly to Critics: "Back Off" 'Movie 43'

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by Matt Singer
January 28, 2013 12:04 PM
8 Comments
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"Movie 43."

Last week I wrote an impassioned defense of January at the movies, that time of year that is, supposedly, nothing but a cinematic dumping ground. I thought I made a pretty good case, too. And then Friday rolled around, Hollywood released two simultaneous stinkers, and I looked like a moron. Brave and/or masochistic audiences had their choice between "Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters," a lifeless reimagining of the classic fairy tale, and "Movie 43," a strange comic anthology featuring some of Hollywood's biggest stars, including Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, and other people who weren't in "X-Men," debasing themselves in rauchy sketches.

Critics weren't kind to "Hansel and Gretel," and with good reason; it's as crummy as gingerbread (these are the jokes, people). But they hated "Movie 43," which is currently clocking a 5% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. That translates to just two fans out of more than 40 critics. For symmetry's sake, I wish I could tell you it had 43 negative reviews but, alas, it's not quite there yet.

A quick scan of IMDb reveals "Movie 43" as the work of a dozen different directors -- including talents like Bob Odenkirk and James Gunn -- but if it's the brain child of anyone (if I can be momentarily permitted to use "Movie 43" and "brain" in the same sentence), it's Peter Farrelly, one half of the famed comedy filmmaking team The Farrelly Brothers. After "Movie 43"'s brutal drubbing by critics and near the end of a pretty brutal weekend at the box office (just $5.0 million in estimated ticket sales, well behind "Hansel and Gretel" and the one decent movie this week, "Parker"), Farrelly took to his Twitter account to defend his work:

At first I thought Farrelly was sticking his tongue out at critics eletronically; then I realized that's just his signature. Nonetheless, he is sticking it to critics for bashing "Movie 43." This is not an uncommon refrain, especially among comedy directors, who tend to defend their work by reminding people it's "just a dumb movie" or "it wasn't trying to be anything but a fun time at the theater." In this case, Farrelly explains that this was at least an attempt, successful or not, to do something different -- which, he adds, critics always complain they want Hollywood to give them. So be careful what you wish for guys! Sometimes "different" looks like Hugh Jackman playing a guy whose testicles dangle from a scrotum on his neck. (Hashtag "comedy")

The Farrellys are an interesting case critically, because at the start of their career they actually got consistently good reviews -- particularly for the sort of movie (43) that they tend to make (dumb, gross, juvenile, funny, etc.).  They followed up their directorial debut, "Dumb and Dumber," with the bowling comedy "Kingpin," which earned a big endorsement from both halves of "Siskel & Ebert," with Ebert saying that it was a reminder that "every once in a while a movie comedy can slam dunk one big laugh after another." Then came "There's Something About Mary," one of the best reviewed mainstream comedies of the last 25 years.

From there, things started to go down hill for the Farrellys, critically if not creatively, although I would not put up much of an argument if you said the two were connected. They've had a few modest creative hits ("Fever Pitch" is listed as "Fresh" on Rotten Tomatoes), and they still have a small but devoted group of auteurists (and "Three Stooges" fans) who support most of their work. But the support was certainly not there for "Movie 43." 

Were the critics too harsh? I will leave you with a sample of their reviews and let you decide for yourself. Either way, I don't think there will be a "Movie 44" -- although according to IMDb, the Farrellys do have "Dumb and Dumber To" is in the works. That title already made me laugh harder than the entirety of "Hall Pass."

Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times:

"We've been hearing about this movie for some four years, as producer Peter Farrelly somehow coaxed more than a dozen A-list stars and talented character actors into appearing in a series of aggressively tasteless scenes loosely strung together as proposed elements of a movie that Dennis Quaid is pitching to Greg Kinnear. So whenever a Gerard Butler or a Johnny Knoxville or a Jason Sudeikis or an Uma Thurman became available and/or were blackmailed, Farrelly would bring in a director, and they'd shoot a scene. Unfortunately, the shooting was never fatal."

Richard Brody, The New Yorker:

"Deadly dull, unfunny, offensive, and stultifyingly clumsy."

Brian Orndorf, Blu-ray.com:

"If this is 'Movie 43,' I’d hate to see the previous 42 attempts at pronounced stupidity the production didn’t want to release."

Peter Howell, Toronto Star:

"This is the biggest waste of talent in cinema history."

Kim Newman, Empire:

"Just no."

Read more tweets from The Farrelly Brothers.

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8 Comments

  • Lilly | February 2, 2013 7:35 PMReply

    I just don't understand why everyone hated it so much. I went with a group of friends, and we didn't stop laughing the entire time!
    Sure, it was complete base humor rife with poop and dick jokes, but so what? Are you too good for that now? Monty Python did the same damn thing in their day. Even Shakespeare pulled these jokes, and you all loved those guys so much.

    My point is, just because they were "raunchy" or "dirty" or "naughty" jokes doesn't make them automatically awful. They were well placed, weren't dragged on too long, and managed to keep the attention of a group of jaded, uppity uni students who generally only like "obscure" and "sophisticated" jokes, and it made us laugh for a full hour and a half. And that's a pretty big feat right there.

    The only reasons I see for anyone to hate this movie so much is either because they're old folks with high standards, or they're tight asses who want everyone to think that they're too good for "easy" humor.

  • Luke | February 6, 2013 6:52 PM

    You have bad taste in film, or you're A teenager. Either way, this movie was made for idiots like you. The jokes are not clever, and it tries so hard to be offensive (it isnt). Just because we like, witty comedy does not mean we have "sticks in our asses", it means we can appreciate humor enough not to give into this juvenile garbage. I've seen it, and no one laughed in the theater besides 3 people. Most walked out.

  • Arch | January 29, 2013 4:10 AMReply

    I have a soft spot for "Irene" myself, but this one ? It seems like an obvious variation on the Funny Or Die syndrome (A-listers doing raunchy sketches to gain street cred or whatever).
    Nothing I would call "new" really. What's original is that Lindsay Loahn is not involved.
    PS: R. Brody writes an interesting piece... and (completely OT) his previous one on art-house consensus is really great.

  • Packard Goose | August 27, 2013 3:52 AM

    Sorry Arch, I was aiming at Luke.

  • Packard Goose | August 27, 2013 3:48 AM

    I'm sorry that the sophisticated comedy critics put themselves above this film. I'm 58 and have seen thousands of flicks in my time, so I guess I just have bad taste in film. Lincoln put me to sleep, Movie 43 kept me laughing thru-out. You must have an Adam's apple that looks like a nutsack.

  • maynard | January 28, 2013 3:40 PMReply

    "Unfortunately, the shooting was never fatal." Roeper

    That's whats wrong with film critics.

  • Jordan Hoffman | January 28, 2013 1:02 PMReply

    Stuck On You (2003) is terrific. Seriously.

  • PK | January 28, 2013 4:25 PM

    I agree, I dig Stuck On You. And I adore Dumb and Dumber, too.

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