Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. Thursday evening I caught a double feature of Movie 43 and Parker. I paid my $10 for each film and plopped down in the one theater near me (a behemoth of a complex up in Pflugerville, just north of Austin) that made that double bill possible.
They didn’t screen any of the weekend’s movies for the press. If there was one for Parker I didn’t get an invite and there were for sure no screenings of Movie 43 and Hansel and Gretel.
I chose Parker over Hansel and Gretel more because my group of friends wanted to see Parker more, but I wish I had seen the silly big budget Witch-hunting movie over the sloppy waste of potential that Parker was, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
I think this review will be notable and I say that as someone who doesn’t have any delusions of grandeur about his talent at writing them. People are either going to look back and go, “You know, this guy had it right,” or it’s going to be thrown in my face like Harry’s Godzilla review every time I have an opinion that differs from the norm.
I really liked Movie 43. Listen, this isn’t deep satire. This isn’t light, but brilliant like some of the great Mel Brooks films. Movie 43 is a shit and balls joke movie, except it’s done like sketch film (ala Kentucky Fried Movie) and features a ridiculous amount of A-list talent.
I’ll admit upfront that I’m an easy lay when it comes to random humor and an even easier lay when it comes to disgusting humor. I’ll also tell you that the circumstances of me seeing this movie were about as perfect as you could hope for. The theater was mostly empty except for a guy in the back, a few scattered couples and an older gentleman a couple rows behind me and my friends.
During the credits, the guy in the back row would either laugh and go “Hooooo, I’m seein’ that!” or be completely silent. Presumably those trailers didn’t work for him. Sorry, Identity Thief, I don’t think you’re going to get that dude’s money.
The older gentlemen was only vocal when the really disgusting (usually poop-themed) segments of Movie 43 came up and he got so excited about these that it made them even funnier. The stuff he’d laugh uproariously at made my already chuckling friends and I laugh 10 times harder.
It might not have been sitting behind Mohammed Ali at the Godzilla premiere in Madison Square Garden, but the circumstances were right. The reason I’m resistant to give the setting all the credit for why this movie worked for me is because all comedy thrives on crowds. Laughter is infectious, whether it’s watching a Bill Cosby stand up special or a great Mel Brooks movie. Comedy and horror are two reasons why the theatrical experience will never go away. There is no replicating that group feeling of laughing or being scared together.
The premise of the movie is an exec is hearing a pitch from an older director who really wants his next film to be something special. Greg Kinnear is the exec, Dennis Quaid is the director. Unfortunately for the exec as the pitch begins we realize Quaid is fucking insane and his pitches are shown to us in the different sketches.
That’s the wrap-around and really just a silly attempt at connecting all these stories which don’t flow together like any kind of movie I’ve ever seen, but I really like the idea that in this psychotic dude’s mind it all makes sense.
You have a couple of blind date sketches, one with Kate Winslet and Hugh Jackman where she’s skeptical that this rich, kind, charitable and handsome man doesn’t come with some kind of catch. And he does. And it’s juvenile and vulgar and had my in hysterics. Like I mentioned above, I’m a sucker for this kind of humor.
The other one is Justin Long as Robin at a speed date seminar which keeps getting interrupted by asshole Batman (Jason Sudeikis), which I believe was done as a short before being re-adapted into this. That one I didn’t like as much, but honestly I didn’t find any of the skits awful, which is kind of a miracle with this kind of movie.
Brett Ratner directed a segment called Happy Birthday that was the biggest letdown of the movie, but even that wasn’t bad. It’s Seann William Scott, Johnny Noxville and Gerard Butler as a captured leprechaun, so with that premise and those people it wasn’t going to be awful. It has a good payoff and goes crazy when the kidnapping scheme (they want his pot of gold, of course) takes a hard violent turn, but more could have been done with this one.
That said, there’s a lot of talent behind the camera here.
Elizabeth Banks directed one with Chloe Moretz as a girl who gets her first period while at her little boyfriend’s house and the whole thing is about chaos. She doesn’t know what’s happening, the older brother does and freaks out even more and the dad comes in and things get even sillier.
Griffin Dunne directed another one called “Veronica,” which has Kieran Culkin and Emma Stone being awful people saying awful things to each other, but done so with all the drama of the most heart-string-tugging Richard Curtis romantic comedy. I actually thought this was a Harmony Korine sketch at first because it takes place in a grocery store and all the shoppers are… um… “characters.” Super tall, super short, sometimes misshapen and missing teeth. We see all these shoppers before meeting the two leads of the segment and then we watch the drama that unfolds as these two ex-lovers/soulmates have an incredibly graphic and vulgar loving argument/fight… and we watch it with this crowd of people. If I were taking this more seriously I’d wonder if Dunne was trying to say something about the kinds of audiences who would watch this kind of movie.
One of my favorite segments was early on in the film, with Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber as a married couple welcoming a new family in the neighborhood over for a classy night of wine and conversation. They proudly announce that their son (Jeremy Allen White) is homeschooled and then we realize that they wanted to give him every aspect of real schooling, so they bully him, harass him, make fun of him, haze him and then the dating stuff comes into play and that’s where this one really got me.
And who could forget the one about Anna Faris wanting to move to the next stage of a perfect relationship by having her long-time boyfriend poop on her. That exact sentence was probably said with snark by some (read: most) reviewers, but I mean it earnestly. This is the vulgar shit segment, but there’s a surprising amount of real heart in this one. I’m serious! Chris Pratt plays her boyfriend who is about to propose when she drops that bomb on him. He doesn’t know how to react, but he loves her, so he wants to make it special for her.
Yes, I know arguing the sweetness in the “I want you to poop on me” segment of Movie 43 is an uphill battle, but they could have easily made the joke be that he's disgusted with her and falls out of love, but they don't. Quite the opposite, really. In a weird way the real focus of this segment wasn’t feces, but heart. And you can quote me on that, Movie 43!
So, yes. I liked Movie 43. It’s silly, stupid and relies on easy gags, but it’s funny. I laughed a lot. Since it’s a comedy that means it did its job in my book.
What didn’t do its job was Parker. I can only guess that John J. McLaughlin had his script taken away from him because I refuse to believe that the guy who wrote Black Swan can write characters this lazy.
Based on the popular and much adapted character created by Donald E. Westlake, Parker should have been a homerun. Jason Statham wouldn’t be my pick for the guy, but he does a good job in the opening heist and could have made this character work if the rest of the movie wasn’t so bad.
As with any Parker tale, you have the tough as nails, but moralistic good guy thief Parker get his fair share of money stolen from him and is nearly killed. He goes on a vengeance streak but just wants his money back. He’s not really interested in getting revenge, he just wants his money, in this case a small amount for this kind of movie: $200,000.
For the character it’s all about right and wrong.
His ex-gang has connections to a Chicago mobster, so the tension of the movie is that Parker tracks them down, figures out their next big score and all the while there’s a mob hitman on his heels.
And then Jennifer Lopez shows up and fucks up what could have been a fine, fun heist/revenge movie. She plays a real estate agent in West Palm Beach, Florida where the big final heist is taking place. Her character serves no purpose other than telling Parker that a rundown million dollar house (that’s a shack in West Palm Beach) was recently purchased by people that match the double-crossing gang’s description.
That’s it. In any other movie that would have been a 5 page character, but here they try to wedge her into the story halfway through like she’s a lead. They even give her a teary-eyed monologue done in soap opera style… she turns dramatically to the camera, away from Statham, and tells her life story in a close up, never looking back at him.
Let’s forget that we’re constantly told she’s not making any commissions and her car is about to be repossessed… she doesn’t act or look like she’s as poor as they want us to think. She’s always drinking expensive wine… everywhere... and she has a ring on her finger that is probably worth two times the value of the car she’s supposedly about to lose, but never does.
This also coincides with Statham putting on a Texan disguise and his accent is so bad that the double whammy of both of those things hitting at once and not going away killed the movie, which was already limping along at this point.
Chiklis and Clifton Collins Jr. are good bad guys, but the whole gang is so one note and underdeveloped they could have thrown just about anybody in those roles. Chiklis has the most development and that all amounts to “I’m bald, I’m mean and I want a big score.” But at least he has that! Collins is just there to look menacing in the background for most of the movie.
I really don’t know what went wrong here. Taylor Hackford is a solid director, but he grossly miscast Jennifer Lopez (and I’m no hater of her work, either. Out of Sight and U-Turn are both great), McLaughlin is a solid screenwriter, but every aspect of his script is weak, from the structure to the character dialogue to the seemingly random narrative focus shifts.
There’s a reason Parker was released in January. It’s bad and they know it doesn’t work. I guess that’s why they dumped Movie 43 in January, too, but in that case I think the studio was just embarrassed by the film.
Anyway, those are my thoughts on those two films. Still haven’t seen Hansel and Gretel, but I hear that one was borderline unreleasable. However, I heard similar talk about Movie 43, so what do “they” know?