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‘Movie 43’: Star-studded comedy sketches take the low road with hilarious results

  • This image released by Relativity Media shows Greg Kinnear, left, and and Dennis Quaid in a scene from "Movie 43." (AP Photo/Relativity Media)

    This image released by Relativity Media shows Greg Kinnear, left, and and Dennis Quaid in a scene from "Movie 43." (AP Photo/Relativity Media)

  • This image released by Relativity Media shows Greg Kinnear, left, and and Dennis Quaid in a scene from "Movie 43." (AP Photo/Relativity Media)

    This image released by Relativity Media shows Greg Kinnear, left, and and Dennis Quaid in a scene from "Movie 43." (AP Photo/Relativity Media)

  • This image released by Relativity Media shows Greg Kinnear, left, and and Dennis Quaid in a scene from "Movie 43." (AP Photo/Relativity Media)
  • This image released by Relativity Media shows Greg Kinnear, left, and and Dennis Quaid in a scene from "Movie 43." (AP Photo/Relativity Media)

Movie 43 is a near-masterpiece of tastelessness. The anthology of 12 short, interconnected skits elevates the art form of gross-out comedy to a new height.

How it accomplishes this: by setting its sights so low that it actually breaks through the basement – previously established by such masters as the brothers Farrelly and Wayans, Judd Apatow and Kevin Smith – and enters a new, unexplored dimension of awfulness where bad is good and what some might call obscene and offensive is awesome.

It also helps that it’s as funny as (include your own unprintable, four-letter vulgarity here).

Structured as a movie pitch by a deranged screenwriter (Dennis Quaid) to an increasingly disturbed producer (Greg Kinnear), Movie 43 opens with a bang, top-loading the almost shockingly star-studded film with two of its biggest gets: Kate Winslet and Hugh Jackman. The Oscar winner and her Oscar-nominated co-star play a couple on a blind date that goes horribly (yet hilariously) wrong when she discovers that he, despite being perfect in almost every other way, has a prominent sexual deformity.

To say more would spoil the surprise. And, quite frankly, it wouldn’t make my enthusiastic, almost unreserved recommendation of this film any more credible. On paper, the movie (which has multiple writers and directors, including Peter Farrelly) sounds dreadful. The onslaught of bathroom humor, racist and homophobic sight gags, and beyond-risque humor seems terrible. In fact, it is terrible. Part of the almost surreal joke of the concept is that this script would never get made in the real (i.e., decent) world.

Except, we clearly don’t live in that world anymore.

The film’s winking self-awareness of its turpitude gives it a kind of get-out-of-jail-free card. Like a charming miscreant, it gets away with stuff not because it can, but because it knows it shouldn’t.

Movie 43 is aided by a great, game cast, which includes such dramatic heavy hitters as Naomi Watts, Liev Schreiber, Emma Stone, Uma Thurman, Terrence Howard and Halle Berry, along with such comedy powerhouses as Stephen Merchant, Jason Sudeikis, Jack McBrayer and Anna Faris.

Is every skit a home run? No. But when Movie 43 makes contact with the ball (and I mean that in every sense of the word), it hits it out of the park.

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