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'Movie 43' wasn't named after number of laughs

| Friday, Jan. 25, 2013, 9:08 p.m.

review

‘Movie 43'

R for strong pervasive crude and sexual content including dialogue, graphic nudity, language, some violence and drug use; 1 / 2 stars (out of four)

“Movie 43” is a collection of one-joke short films strung together as a feature, movies seemingly built around this guiding directive: Find big-name stars and see how far “out there” they'll go for a laugh.

Thus, you have Kate Winslet on a blind date with Hugh Jackman, trying not to notice ­— or be utterly revolted by — something growing out of his neck. There's Halle Berry, caught up in a first-date game of Truth or Dare with Brit comic Stephen Merchant that involves tattoos, plastic surgery and sitting still while Snooki from “The Jersey Shore” gives an interpretive reading of Herman Melville's “Moby Dick.”

If you're the sort who laughs at the title of that novel, this might be the movie for you — a dizzying array of actors in a wide variety of oh-no-they-didn't sketches, almost all using crude gags — as their punchlines.

About a third of the short films land laughs, but even the weakest material is lifted by the players. One bit that works, directed by Elizabeth Banks, has Chloe Moretz on an after-school date, having her first period, with every male in the house — including Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Patrick Warburton — freaking out.

After seeing this, it'll be hard to think of Gerard Butler as anything but a special-effects leprechaun, cursing at being captured and tortured “for me Lucky Charms” by Johnny Knoxville and Seann William Scott.

Oscar nominee Naomi Watts and husband Liev Schreiber play home schoolers who torment their teen with a “real” high school experience — an insulting teacher, a bullying gym coach and awkward “first date” makeout sessions with mom. “It should be the unhappiest time in a boy's life!”

The connecting sketches — Dennis Quaid pitching these various film ideas to a stunned studio executive (Greg Kinnear) — don't work at all. An Anna Faris/Chris Pratt digestive-tract joke has a “Yeah, hasn't Anna Faris already played that?” to it. Same with Terrence Howard's “You're black and they're white” inspiring-basketball-coach segment.

One thing we've never seen — an iPod (remember those?) upgrade that's called “iBabe,” which is repeatedly misused, in a sexual way, by customers. Richard Gere, Kate Bosworth and Jack McBrayer sit in on the company crisis meeting over the injuries male customers are suffering with this badly designed gadget.

“Movie 43” is short, despite cumbersome credits — 10 directors, a scattering of writers and a whole posse of stars. And if Emma Stone and Kieran Culkin having a screaming flirtation at a kinky supermarket checkout register — “You look like the kid who got cancer for Christmas!” — doesn't do it for you, maybe the next Big Stars/Short Film will.

— McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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