Some films awaken our inner child, allowing us once again to view the world with wonder and awe and magic. And then there’s “Movie 43,” which delivered a sharp nudge to the ribs of my 14-year-old self, who thought “Kentucky Fried Movie” was the funniest thing ever.
“Movie 43” is gross, juvenile, disgusting, scatological, vile, reprehensible and in the worst possible taste. But heaven help me, I laughed.
Like “Kentucky Fried Movie” (1977) — and its unofficial follow-up, 1987’s “Amazon Women on the Moon” — “Movie 43” is a loose assemblage of sketches offering up outrageous sight gags and generally tasteless situations, strung together by the flimsiest of connective materials. (In this case, it’s screenwriter Dennis Quaid making a desperate pitch to studio exec Greg Kinnear and his boss Common.)
Spearheaded by Peter Farrelly and written and directed by a gaggle of filmmakers, the results are something akin to a cross between those terrible Garry Marshall ensemble pieces (“Valentine’s Day,” “New Year’s Day”) and National Lampoon at its most sophomoric. If you don’t want to see jokes about coprophilia, testicles, menstruation, superhero pubic grooming or mangled genitalia, you might want to check out “Quartet” instead.
As with any anthology film or sketch showcase, there are peaks and valleys of quality; two of the best segments, perhaps coincidentally, feature Oscar-winning actresses proving that they can still get raunchy. Kate Winslet plays a woman on a blind date with the seemingly perfect Hugh Jackman, only to discover why he’s still unmarried, and her reaction shots and unspoken horror are brilliantly hilarious.
Later in the film, Halle Berry goes toe-to-toe with Stephen Merchant (“The Ricky Gervais Show”), as a first-date game of Truth or Dare goes to exceedingly insane heights. It’s a vignette that requires Berry to commit some over-the-top acts and submit to grotesque makeup, but she eagerly pushes things to the limit. She hasn’t gotten to play much comedy on the big screen, but her good sportsmanship here reminds you that this is a woman who brought her Oscar with her to receive a Razzie in person.
The superhero bit, an extension of a viral internet short from a few years back, plays well, with Jason Sudeikis and Justin Long making a particularly dysfunctional Batman and Robin, and Anna Faris and Chris Pratt anchor a bit that represents the height (or perhaps depth) of body-function humor in American cinema, managing to wring laughs out of material that might merely have prompted dry heaves.
Emma Stone and Kieran Culkin play unusual teen lovers in a sketch (directed by Griffin Dunne, who appeared in “Amazon Women”) that could be a short film on its own, even if the extras appear to have snuck out of an old David Lee Roth video. Interestingly, the bit with Liev Schreiber and Naomi Watts (as home-schooling parents with a whacko insistence of recreating the worst experiences secondary education has to offer) meshes with Watts’ recent Sundance flick “Two Mothers,” in that both skirt uncomfortably close to incestuous moments. (The difference being that the one in “Movie 43” is intended to be funny.)
The low point of all this would probably be a bit featuring Chloe Grace Moretz as a young woman experiencing her first period; the gag is clearly meant to revolve around the incompetent men around her, but most of the jokes are of the “ew, gross, blood” variety, surprising since the segment was written and directed by women.
If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen more of the jokes and set-ups than you perhaps should have, but even so, there are still surprises to be found in “Movie 43.” You might hate yourself in the morning, but if your own inner 14-year-old still finds this kind of material amusing, throw propriety to the wind and enjoy some dirty giggles.