There are many comedy and film geeks who, at an impressionably young age, managed to see anthologies of lunacy like The Groove Tube, Kentucky Fried Movie, and Amazon Women on the Moon. However, it had been a very long time since anybody threw together a genuine all-star, not-for-all-ages collection of comedy shorts when Peter Farrelly and a handful of other directors decided to revive the moribund genre with the proudly R-rated Movie 43 -- and the results are predictably hit or miss.
Framed by the story of a desperate screenwriter (Dennis Quaid) pitching ideas to a studio exec (Greg Kinnear), the film uses that device to show us the outrageous, offensive, and occasionally funny story lines the unhinged scripter spins. There's one about a married couple (Liev Schreiber and Naomi Watts) homeschooling their son in a most twisted fashion, another about a woman (Kate Winslet) on a blind date with a man who has a graphically dangling physical abnormality, and a third about a speed-dating session in Gotham City.
Honestly, the less you know about the setups of the dozen or so tales that play out over the course of the movie's running time, the better. Many of them are one-joke gags, too many of which are actually given away by the film's trailer.
Highlights include a hilarious speech by JB Smoove directed at a loyal guy (Chris Pratt) whose girlfriend (Anna Faris) has asked him to do something unexpected, a seventh-grade girl getting her first period at an inopportune moment, and a throwaway line about recent European history from Stephen Merchant as a man on a first date that turns into an epic game of truth or dare.
Thankfully, when you're dealing with this much material, nothing terrible lasts long enough to kill the mood entirely. Don't like the idea of a foulmouthed, kidnapped leprechaun going all Joe Pesci on a pair of idiots who want his gold? Just wait and you'll get a fake ad good enough -- but probably too explicit -- for Saturday Night Live.
Even with segments directed by such well-known names as Farrelly, Brett Ratner, and Steven Brill, Movie 43 never once hits the status of a classic. If the sketches have any unifying style, it's that they go for shock value over genuine laughs most of the time -- you're amused by how far people this famous are willing to go, but not by the actual situation.
If you're interested in seeing Oscar winners, Tony winners, and a bunch of genuinely talented people act out the raunchiest, most inappropriate material you're likely to see this year, Movie 43 fits the bill.