When I first saw a preview for Movie 43 sitting in a theater waiting for the feature to start rolling, I couldn’t stop laughing. In fact, I thought it looked hilarious and couldn’t wait for it to come out. As soon as the preview ended, a couple of fellow theatregoers that were a few rows behind me said aloud that the star-studded comedy looked “stupid,” “awful,” “dumb,” “ridiculous.” I scoffed at their close-mindedness; at their lack of confidence in the kind of project all of these well-respected actors would give their names. As it turns out, they were right, and my enthusiasm was woefully misguided. See, the thing is, I thought that the Hollywood satire would be smart and witty (even if it was appallingly so) – the kind of film that Dennis Quaid’s character promises in the opening scene as he pitches the idea to a studio exec played by Greg Kinnear.

Isn’t it plausible, as Quaid argues, that the “neck-scroti” worn by Hugh Jackman’s eligible bachelor could represent the date-fatal flaw that dates have a habit of manufacturing? Kate Winslet, who plays his date in the segment, has played the girl who won’t date the guy because of such a thing in roles past. Her role in The Holiday opposite Jack Black comes to mind. Instead, the vignette relies on the physical appearance of the scrotum bowtie, rather than the other potential implications of the scene. He spills food on them, dips them in sauce, props them on a baby’s head, swings them about, flops them towards Winslet’s mouth as he goes to peck her on the head. So, in the end, the scene gets a few cheap chuckles, but no substantial laughs.

The next piece of the comedic cluster, stars real-life couple Naomi Watts and Liev Shreiber as homeschooling parents who’ve set out to make their son’s high school experience as unbearably miserable and humiliating as they imagine it to be – including an awkward incestuous kiss. Then there’s other real-life couple Anna Farris and Chris Pratt in a sketch where bathroom and bedroom collide. Kieran Culkin and Emma Stone talk dirty to each other over a supermarket PA microphone. Jason Sudeikis, Justin Long and Kristen Bell engage in superhero speed dating. iBABE is the star of the next vignette where Richard Gere runs a company that’s turning out music players that look and feel like naked-women, and refuses to change the product despite the fact that young men (and lonely older men) are getting their privates mangled in the “vagi-fan.”

Nicole “SNOOKIE” Polizzi makes a cameo!

McLuvin (Christopher MIntz-Plasse) tries to save the day with a mop when his seventh-grade brother’s girlfriend gets her period for the first time as they make out watching TV. Johnny Knoxville and Seann William Scott kill two leprechauns, both played by Gerard Butler. Halle Berry makes guacamole with her right breast before she takes on a turkey baster filled with hot sauce. Terrence Howard gives a racially tinged pep talk. And just when the credits begins to roll, and you’re lured into thinking it’s finally all over, one more sketch takes shape starring Josh Duhamel, Elizabeth Banks and an a fiendish animated feline – think Garfield with some caffeine and a sex addiction.

There are few things more frustrating about movie viewing, than really wanting to like a film and then realizing when you walk out of it that what felt like three hours was really only about 90 minutes. One of the biggest problems of Movie 43 (and there were many) was that each celebrity-filled vignette had exactly one joke. And that one, singular, solitary and lonely joke was stretched over its roughly ten minutes of screen time. So, while it’s easy to laugh the first time Winslet spots Jackman’s poorly placed privates, it’s hard to find the humor as they oscillate for the tenth time. While Berry and Stephen Merchant’s truth or dare distastefully amused when she blows out a blind child’s birthday candles, the Asian-inspired plastic surgery dare for Merchant barely gets a smirk. And, as inappropriately funny as Howard rallying his team with a chorus of “They’re white, we’re black” was the first couple of times, it was stale by the time the final score of 101 to 1 lit up the scoreboard.

If the purpose of the film was greater than that of making a movie that would get laughs from grossness; if there was supposed to be a bigger joke than that of getting people to pay the price to see a feature film, and giving them an amateur project in return; it wasn’t easily discernible. Maybe the producers, directors and actors involved in Movie 43 know the greater meaning, the broader joke and could, if asked, explain them to everybody else. But, as American humorist Mark Twain once said, “Explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog: you understand it better, but the frog dies in the process.”

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