Starring Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, and many others. Written by Steve Baker, Will Carlough, and many others. Directed by Peter Farrelly, James Gunn, and many others. 18A. 97 min.
Fifteen writers and 11 directors collaborated to generate maybe a half-dozen good laughs in Movie 43. That’s not a very good ratio, but it should be said that this long-delayed collection of sketches and fake commercials—featuring cameos from seemingly half the working actors in Hollywood and tied together by a framing device involving a desperate screenwriter (Dennis Quaid) pitching ideas to an unreceptive studio executive (Greg Kinnear)—is at least slightly funnier than its DOA reputation suggests.
A sequence where real-life marrieds Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber play suburban parents who supplement their home-schooling program with humiliations designed to approximate the actual experience of high school is genuinely squirmy and earns its ghoulish punchline. There are also a few scenes that are basically clever but lazily executed, like Elizabeth Banks’s segment about a girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) who gets her period for the first time and has to put up with the panicky stupidity of the men around her.
The vast majority of the movie is lousy, though, and the spectacle of seeing big stars like Kate Winslet and Hugh Jackman (the latter with a pair of testicles grafted onto his back) self-consciously make fools of themselves quickly loses its luster. It also doesn’t help that despite the diverse talent behind the camera, the film looks and sounds atrocious from beginning to end. Nobody who’s going to see Movie 43 is expecting immaculate craft, perhaps, but the lack of care that went into making this thing is palpably obvious—and makes it that much easier to dismiss it without a second thought.