“Movie 43” begins with a narrative that plays as the wraparound story, involving a faded star (Dennis Quaid, dressed like Justin Bieber for no apparent reason) accosting a movie executive and begging him to make his dream film, which turns out to be a series of unconnected shorts mostly obsessed with genitals. As this story continues, characters begin to react in increasingly inexplicable ways as the narrative falls away, walking in and out of the short without rhyme or reason, until a fourth-wall breakdown in the narrative, a tactic that feels less like a comedy skit, and more like a distant, dopey relative of Dennis Hopper’s “The Last Movie.”
Others proceed with all sorts of scatological concerns: Carr’s bit, involving a couple (Chris Pratt, Anna Faris) wanting to experiment with scat misjudges the amount of laughs that can come from splattered waste. Others, like a Griffin Dunne-directed supermarket seduction between Emma Stone and Kieran Culkin, conversely carry the sort of Dadaist inspiration of the best of ten-to-one “Saturday Night Live” sketches. Unfortunate that the segment, which features Stone giving the most committed performance in the entire film, fails to land on a sufficient punchline, as each short seems like it’s in a hurry to get to the next.
The worst sketches seem to revel in unfortunate biases from their makers. Elizabeth Banks helms a short bit where young Chloe Moretz has her period, leading to father Matt Walsh, boyfriend Jimmy Bennett, his big brother Christopher Mintz-Plasse and an always-welcome Patrick Warburton to ickily ostracize her and misinterpret her basic biology, a gag that is neither incisive nor funny. Ratner’s sketch, involving Seann William Scott and Johnny Knoxville fighting off a foul-mouthed leprechaun (Gerard Butler), involves callous, gratuitous bloodshed, ending with the prospect of a fairy prostitute promising fellatio. Ratner has received criticism that has been undeservedly harsh over the years, but his views towards broad comedy and sexuality remain consistently below-juvenile.
“Movie 43” isn’t a total failure, in that fans of lowbrow gross-out comedy will have plenty of options during the film’s runtime, the magic of an anthology picture being that you must only wait a little while until a particularly joyless segment will end. But as far as getting a taste of the voices of American comedy, it falls way short. The only entry to capture a particularly idiosyncratic voice is the final installment from former Troma hand James Gunn, who reveals that, despite the mainstream recognition that’s about to come from directing Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy,” his mind remains affectionately deranged. Gunn’s short combines the tacky plastic sweetness of a sitcom about a pushy cat interrupting the love affair between a normal couple (Josh Duhamel, Elizabeth Banks) with the extreme bad taste of his earlier work, taking the idea of a particularly perverted feline to its likely conclusion, and then even farther. Gunn’s short, inexplicably banished to the middle of the end credits, is the only sketch here with an actual ending, reflecting, for once, an actual comedic vision, however diseased. Sadly, it plays at the moment where it’s likely that most audience-goers will have had their fill of the arbitrary chaos of “Movie 43,” an oddity recommended for only the most fervent, undemanding comedy junkies. [C]