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Ensemble cast contributes to sketch-comedy flop

Movie 43 opens with a struggling and misguided filmmaker (Dennis Quaid), dressed in skateboard shoes and a zip-up sweatshirt, desperately pitching a project to a major production agency. He expresses his desire to make a “smart movie with a lot of heart, like The Help,” but this ambitious statement is understood almost immediately as a joke. It soon becomes apparent that Movie 43 will turn out to be the exact opposite of the disgruntled director’s ideal: distasteful and unsympathetic.

The problem with Movie 43, a film comprised of 12 separate sketches, is not so much about content but performance. It feels more like an extended Saturday Night Live episode than a feature-length film. But even comparing it to the likes of SNL is ambitious, given the mediocre acting of the cast.

Though the majority of the film is difficult to watch, there were some bright spots. One of the better sketches features Jason Sudeikis who plays an overly confident Batman coaching a less experienced Robin (Justin Long) through a particularly grueling series of blind dates. Sudeikis delivers every line with finesse, even the poorly written ones. Other Marvel superheroes (Uma Thurman, John Hodgman) periodically appear to stir up more trouble, but their performances, like all the other celebrities’ in this movie, are about as loose as Lindsey Lohan’s Saturday Night Live interpretation of a Disney Princess.

Most sketches are excessively crude and bizarre and are occasionally interrupted by parodies of commercials, which are equally disturbing. One particular commercial, molded after Apple’s iconic iPod commercials, features people in colorful exercise clothing and earphones dancing around the “iBabe,” an iPod in the form of a naked woman. It is explicitly a parody of Apple’s iPod commercials, but it dwells on something much more disgusting and sinister — the idea of the feminine body as a commodity.

The “iBabe” reappears in a later sketch as the subject of a corporate business meeting. The engineering of the iBabe — a human body as an electronic device — is the butt of several inevitable joke, frustrating the only female businesswoman in a room full of men. The sketch doesn’t completely miss its comedic target and the lewd jokes certainly gain some laughs, but with no overarching message of the film, it contributes to a cheap kind of humor.

The producer, Peter Farrelly, who also produced Dumb and Dumber, sets this movie up to do everything a film student is taught not to do. Perhaps Movie 43 was supposed to be refreshing, but it turned out more taxing than entertaining.