"These guys are obsessed with balls."
In the halcyon days before the internet, the fabled "red band trailer" was the sort of thing that would pop up before R-rated movies on VHS from time to time, but it was rare to come across one. Nowadays, studios can release red band trailers for their R-rated movies on the internet and give people a little extra bang for their buck by including jokes, blood & body parts that they can't show in a standard green band trailer.
Films without a ton of substance are therefore forced to give away all the best gags in the film for free, ushering in an era when you can say "they gave away the best jokes in the trailer" about even R-rated films. Unfortunately, the new Movie 43 is the latest film to fall victim to this trend, and one that will likely continue as long as studios churn out ninety minute films with five minutes of laughs.
Ostensibly a throwback to the "sketch comedy" films of the 70s and 80s like Kentucky Fried Movie & Amazon Women on the Moon, Movie 43 is a series of short films tied together by a loose framing device involving a hack writer (Dennis Quaid) pitching a film to a producer (Greg Kinnear). Much like in his days as host of "Talk Soup," most of the film's early humor comes from Kinnear's reactions to the various ridiculous and tasteless stories that Quaid is telling.
The talent on this thing is stacked to the gills, but no one seems to be exerting any sort of actual effort, which makes the whole endeavor that much more shrill in hindsight. Kate Winslet & Hugh Jackman play a couple on a blind date (a comedic premise the film comes back to at least two more times) and the joke is that he has testicles on his neck. The visual gag is funny at first and the sight of two respected actors dealing with exposed balls is funny for about thirty seconds, but the longer it goes on, and the more you realize that there's nothing more to the premise than just that, you begin to get the feeling that there wasn't much thought put into these sketches beyond a funny concept.
The film goes on like this, funny concepts with no real pay-off, with the exception of the story involving real-life couple Liev Schrieber & Naomi Watts as abusive home-schooling parents and the one involving two idiots (Johnny Knoxville & Seann William Scott) kidnapping a leprechaun (Gerard Butler). Both of those sketches have a very clear set-up and punchline, but absolutely none of the rest of them do. In fact, the one involving Stephen Merchant & Halle Berry on a blind date has a perfect punchline, but then they keep the sketch going for another thirty seconds, thereby ruining the perfect punchline they had set up.
Some of the sketches seem to be going for nothing more than having either attractive people (Anna Faris, Chris Pratt, Emma Stone) or grotesque people (the supporting players in Stone's sketch) saying really disgusting things. JB Smoove was hilarious in his section of the Faris & Pratt sketch, but I think that had more to do with my affinity for his particular brand of delivery. Then there are some sketches utterly devoid of a punchline, such as the one involving Richard Gere as the head of an Apple-esque company, dealing with the fallout of a design flaw in its newest product. I hate to be a stickler about this stuff, but when there's a set-up, there needs to be a pay-off.
My least favorite sketch by a mile was the Superhero Speed Dating sketch. The main reason is that in they expanded upon an already funny short from 2005 called Robin's Big Date (which I've embedded below). It's written by the same guy, but it took everything that was charming about that sketch, and amped it up for maximum offensiveness. I like Jason Sudeikis a lot, but he was so thoroughly miscast as Batman in the sketch, especially if you've seen Sam Rockwell's take on the character in the earlier version.
As for the rest of the sketches, if you've seen the trailer, you've seen the funniest parts of them. Terrence Howard's motivational basketball coach sketch didn't have a single joke in it that wasn't in the trailer. Likewise the one with Chloe Grace Moretz as a young girl having her first period at a friend's house (although I will give bonus points to Patrick Warburton & Matt Walsh for adding some levity to an otherwise cringe-inducing segment).
There's a ton of talent in front of and behind the camera here, but the laughs are so spotty and few & far between that it's not worth suffering through a full ninety minutes just to get to them. If you watch the red band trailer, you'll see about eighty percent of the funny jokes in the film, and if that fact scares you, avoid this film at all costs. The audience at my screening wasn't laughing much at all, or they would laugh at the beginning of a sketch, when the premise is revealed, and then the laughs would peter out as they realized that there was nothing more to it than that.
There's a dearth of comedies in the marketplace at the moment, so if you absolutely need to laugh at something, this will give you a few chuckles. But I would only recommend seeing it on someone else's dime or if you have money to burn. Otherwise, stay home, watch the red band trailer and then watch Robin's Big Date. That's a much funnier, and shorter, way to get some laughs.
GO Rating: 1.5/5
[Photos via BoxOfficeMojo]