Box Office Failures Week: Movie 43 (2013)

I have a weakness for movies like The Kentucky Fried Movie and Amazon Women on the Moon. Big huge paens to MAD Magazine stupidity, they’re the cinematic equivalent of Fiddle Faddle to me.

Then there’s Movie 43, a movie that took a decade-long odyssey to get made, as most studios rejected the script. The end result was shot over a several year period and included some actors who refused to appear and others, like Richard Gere, who worked hard to escape the project.

Movie 43 was the brainchild of Charles B. Wessler, whose career goes from starting way down here as a production assistant on the film Can I Do It… ‘Til I Need Glasses? — suddenly this is all making sense — and ends up all the way up here by producing Green Book.

Wessler then recruited three pairs of directors — South Park‘s Trey Parker and Matt Stone, Something About Mary’s Peter and Bobby Farrelly, and Airplane!’s David and Jerry Zucker — to make a third of the movie each. Yet weeks before shooting, writers Parker, Stone and the Zuckers backed out. The film ended up with thirteen directors and nineteen writers.

That said — the movie did make money. $32.4 million on a $6 million dollar budget, yet you have to consider that every single actor was working for scale. Therefore, we can’t even comprehend the true budget of this film.

What we can calculate is the vitriol and hatred that critics heaped on the film, crowned by it winning worst director, worst picture and worst screenplay at the 34th Golden Raspberry Awards.

Peter Farrelly directed the wrap=around story — as seen in the U.S. cut of the film — called The Pitch. Here, a writer not so subtly named Charlie Wessler (Dennis Quaid, and no, I’m not saying “who deserves better” because honestly, everyone involved in this movie deserves better and willingly made this movie) pitches his movie to producer Griffin Schraeder (Greg Kinnear). Somewhere in all of this, Common, Charlie Saxton, Will Sasso and the gigantic dome of Seth MacFarlane all appear.

Movie 43 feels like MAD TV the movie. You remember that show? It was the original home of Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele. And all I remember is that the audience would be reacting to the show as if Jesus himself had walked out on set, yet nothing funny ever really seemed to happen. Seeing Sasso in these segments — he was also on the show before he turned his John Madden impression into an industry — reminds me of just how grating those shows were.

In the U.K. and the Netherlands, another wrap-around called The Thread posits a world where Movie 43 is the most dangerous film ever made and its discovery destroys civilization. We should all be so lucky. Fischer Stevens shows up, thankfully not as a culturally inappropriate character such as the one he played in Short Circuit, but then again, with bad taste being thrown at you for this movie’s entire running time, why they didn’t go this route is beyond me.

Next is The Catch, which was the scene that was filmed to convince other actors to be in the film. There’s one joke: Hugh Jackman has balls on his chin. Somehow, Kate Winslet is in this as well, getting paid around $800 for a role that by all rights would have decimated careers in the past.

In Homeschooled, Liev Schirber and Naomi Watts homeschool their child but take it too far. I wish I could tell you there was another joke, but nope. That’s the joke.

Steve Carr, who fostered such cinematic turds as Dr. Dolittle 2 and Paul Blart: Mall Cop onto screens everywhere as if they were commodes, brings the fecal-obsessed story The Proposition, in which Chris Pratt and Anna Ferris (who were a couple at the time) basically take a dump upon one another.

Some day, I’m going to have a chat with Griffin Dunne about making Practical Magic, a movie that I have suffered through numerous times. I’m also going to discuss Veronica, the next segment, whereupon Kieran Culkin and Emma Stone graphically discuss their sex life in a rundown grocery store.

Steven Brill, who was the hatchet man called in to reshoot the movie Fanboys by Harvey Weinstein, directed the next sequence called iBabe. Yes, the force that made Little Nicky is here to do an overly long sketch about a robot girl (Kate Bosworth) whose internal fans cut off penises. This is probably the most embarrassing thing Richard Gere has ever done, I said, ignorant of the veracity of that urban legend.

Superhero Speed Dating has Justin Long and Jason Sudekis as Batman and Robin, trying to woo Kristen Bell as Supergirl, Uma Thurman as Lois Lane and Leslie Bibb as Wonder Woman. It’s a marvel of restraint and timing compared to the rest of the movie.

Machine Kids is a throwaway about kids who get stuck inside machines.

Elizabeth Banks directed the next part, Middleschool Date, which is a period piece. No, really, it’s a drawn-out tale of menstruation starring Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Chloe Grace Moretz and people who only two names like Jimmy Bennett, Patrick Warburton and Matt Walsh.

Have you ever wanted to watch Johnny Knoxville and Seann William Scott beat up a leprechaun played by Gerard Butler? Then you must be Brett Ratner and you made the next story, Happy Birthday.

Truth or Dare involves, well, truth or dare between Halle Berry and Stephen Merchant. You know, this week of failures has two Halle Berry movies in it. This one somehow beats out Catwoman, which speaks so, so much about this movie.

Victory’s Glory is directed by Rusty Cundieff, who turns in a cute tale of an all black basketball team against a team of all white guys. Terrence Howard makes it work.

Elizabeth Banks and Josh Duhamel are in love, except Josh’s cat won’t have her in the house in the final story, Beezel. It’s animated and James Gunn directed it, but somehow didn’t even get to edit the movie.

There were some scenes cut, like Bob Odenkirk’s Find Our Daughter, which has Tony Shaloub and Julianne Moore as the stars and The Apprentice, a movie in which a mortician has sex with a corpse and brings her back to life. Anton Yelchin, who died before his career could go past the Star Trek films, was in this segment.

Comedy is a touchy subject. Not every joke lands. But man, never have so few jokes landed so never, as they don’t say. I saw this in the theater and while I laughed at some of the incredulous moments, it soon turned into a clock-watching affair. Then again, it was a forced fun team bonding work experience, which never lends toward enjoyment. Subsequent viewings have only made me dislike this movie so much more.

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