Feel like Oscar-contending films like Zero Dark Thirty, Amour, Lincoln and Les Misérables are a bit light in the laughs department? Movie 43 might be just the movie for you. Being released Friday – in the movie purgatory of late January – with little publicity and no advance screenings for reviewers, the enigmatically titled picture is a collection of 12 short films from different directors. It’s billed as a gross-out film and, according to its poster, is “the most outrageous comedy ever made with the biggest cast ever assembled.”
Movie 43 may also represent another Hollywood milestone: The most disreputable movie on the résumés of most of its famous cast members. Among the more than 40 stars of the film is handsome Hugh Jackman, former People’s magazine Sexiest Man Alive and currently nominated for a best-actor Oscar in Les Misérables. As Sam, he makes his blind date (Oscar-winning actress Kate Winslet) gag over dinner, because he has a scrotum dangling from his chin. (If Jackman had also sported his Wolverine sideburns, it would obviously be going too far; as Coco Chanel said, always remove one accessory before you leave the house.) In another segment, former Oscar-winner Halle Berry, on a dare from her date (Stephen Merchant) blows out a blind boy’s birthday cake candles and then, in a shameless case of double dipping, immerses her breasts in guacamole.
The red-band trailer for this R-rated comedy runs the taboo gamut, from parental bullying, deformity, menstruation panic, racist stereotypes, STDs, scatological sex, necrophilia and a masturbating cartoon cat. Produced by Peter Farrelly (who along with his brother Bobby directed the sweetly obscene nineties’ comedies Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary), Movie 43 also lists a dozen directors, including Farrelly, Brett Ratner (Rush Hour), Steve Brill (Big Daddy) and actress Elizabeth Banks. The wrap-around plot, which was originally about kids searching the Internet for banned films, was changed to a story about a producer (Dennis Quaid) desperately pitching film ideas to different companies. Farrelly has deliberately set bottom-scraping expectations for the $6-million movie, though he believes it will be a cult hit.
At least the promise about the “biggest cast ever assembled” may be true. For starters: Elizabeth Banks, Kristen Bell, Halle Berry, Leslie Bibb, Kate Bosworth, Gerard Butler, Bobby Cannavale, Kieran Culkin, Josh Duhamel, Richard Gere, Greg Kinnear, Terrence Howard, Hugh Jackman, Johnny Knoxville, Justin Long, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Chloë Grace Moretz, Nicole (Snooki) Polizzi, Chris Pratt, Liev Schreiber, Seann William Scott, Jason Sudeikis, Naomi Watts and Kate Winslet.
While this may be the silliest thing most of them have been associated with (well, maybe not Snooki), even the most acclaimed stars have some big blots on their résumés. Unlike banks and brokerage companies, actors are never too big to fail, as their track records show. Here’s a roundup of eight of the movie’s big-name stars.
KATE WINSLET (In Movie 43, Beth, in a sketch titled The Catch):
Best work: Kenneth Branagh’s production of Hamlet, in which Winslet played Ophelia, was her best-reviewed film, while her role as Rose in Titanic is the one that casts a shadow over her career. Her most ambiguously complex role, arguably, is the free-spirited Clementine in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, opposite Jim Carrey, in writer Charlie Kaufman and director Michel Gondry’s high-concept melancholy sci-fi romance. The six-time Oscar nominee is the most garlanded star to be involved with Movie 43.
Worst flop: Winslet’s most negligible movie is the children’s flick A Kid in King Arthur’s Court (1995) but not her worst. For misguided seriousness, both The Reader and the Sean Penn-starring political potboiler All the King’s Men (2006) are contenders, but the booby prize goes to Alan Parker’s dismal The Life of David Gale (2003) featuring Kevin Spacey as an anti-death-penalty activist on death row, with Winslet as Bitsey Bloom, the journalist whose main job is to gaze in wide-eyed compassion.
HALLE BERRY (Emily, in Truth or Dare):
Best work:Monster’s Ball (2001). The emotional rawness of Berry’s performance as the mother of an executed son, opposite Billy Bob Thornton as a racist prison guard, propelled Halle to the first best-actress win by an African-American woman.
Worst flop: In 2004, Berry gamely accepted her Golden Raspberry (Razzie) Award for worst actress in the lifeless Catwoman, doing a suitably choked-up simulation of her Oscar acceptance speech, thanking Warner Bros. for this “godawful movie”and generously sharing with her cast-members because, “to give a really bad performance like mine, you need to have really bad actors.”