Movie 43 features a long string of loosely connected sketches. Unfortunately for audience members, it doesn’t contain enough loosely connected laughs, which is a big problem since it has no plot to fall back on. That’s the downside to breaking a comedy into segments, and that’s the reason why most comedies that do typically go with the shotgun/slapstick humor approach. By cramming sight jokes, wordplay jokes, physical jokes and premise jokes into one repeatedly firing weapon, such movies are able to minimize dead air, but this one stupidly doesn’t do that. It relies largely on set-ups that take too long to unfold and mostly fail to go anywhere after they do.
Writing funny sketches is an extremely difficult task. Some of the Saturday Night Live writers have been at it for decades, and they still have trouble figuring out the specifics, like when to cut away and how long to pause between jokes. Even during the best of seasons the hit rate is maybe fifty percent, but we collectively give that show (at least somewhat of) a free pass because the writers and performers need to fill an hour and a half twenty-five or so Saturdays a year, with only one shot each week at getting it right. Movie 43, however, had more than four years and dozens of takes with some of the biggest actors and actresses in the world to get it right. There's really no excuse for awkwardness or bits that just don’t work, and too many of these bits do not work at all.
From a man with balls dangling from his chin to a new MP3 player that’s actually a naked woman, Movie 43 is filled segments that never should have made it past the planning stages. They’re dead from almost the instant they hit the screen, and since they come early in the film, they make the whole thing look amateurish and sophomoric. Later, a few segments (Robin speed dating, Kieran Culkin and Emma Stone arguing about their love life, extreme homeschooling) actually have some chuckles within them, but even these high moments still feel like missed opportunities. For example: Movie 43 features a sketch about parents who home school their child trying to give him an authentic experience by screaming insults at him and making his life awkward, but it’s far funnier in theory than it actually is on the screen.
There aren’t enough unapologetically R-rated comedies released today. Studios are usually so fixated on the amount of money they could make by stripping away the f-words and the boobs that really edgy material doesn’t make it past the concept stages. Here, the filmmakers were actually given the green light to go there, and disappointingly, they mostly responded like fifteen-year-old boys, littering the final product with pointless fart jokes, insults we’ve all heard before and half-hearted apologies we didn’t need. This isn’t 1960. There isn’t anything inherently shocking about seeing a vagina or watching a man shit his pants. There has to be a layer beyond that.
Does Movie 43 have its moments? Yes. Does it have enough moments? Not even close.