With posters boasting it had the biggest collection of stars “ever assembled” in one film, Movie 43 was supposed to be a sure-fire hit. Instead the Hollywood filmmaker behind the gross-out comedy has found himself defending the project with all his energy after it was savaged by critics as the “Citizen Kane of awful”.
Peter Farrelly, who wrote and directed the hugely popular There’s Something About Mary and Dumb & Dumber with his brother Bobby, responded to a tidal wave of criticism that met his latest film by telling critics to “lighten up”.
“To the critics: Movie 43 is not the end of the world. It’s just a $6-million movie where we tried to do something different. Now back off,” he wrote on Twitter.
He added: “To the critics: You always complain that Hollywood never gives you new stuff, and then when you get it, you flip out. Lighten up.”
Movie 43, which was released on Friday, showcases an all-star cast including Hugh Jackman, Emma Stone, Gerard Butler and Halle Berry, as well as Kate Winslet and Richard Gere. But some have jokingly questioned if they were tricked into taking part.
“Was someone holding Kate Winslet’s children hostage? Threatening to release compromising pictures of Emma Stone? Did Richard Gere or Hugh Jackman have gambling Debts?” wrote David Edelstein, a movie critic for Vulture.
Movie 43 follows 12 stories, each of which had a different director. The scenes are brought together by the story of three teenagers searching the internet for “Movie 43,” the most banned film in the world.
The film’s own publicity admits that “you can’t unsee it” and the skits include a blind date where one character has testicles hanging from his neck, a young woman begging her fiancé to defecate on her as well as two characters who fight a foul-mouthed leprechaun.
Despite counting several Oscar winners and current nominees in its cast, the film was described as the “Citizen Kane of awful” by film critic Richard Roeper for the Chicago Sun Times, who did not “see a redeeming molecule” in the film.
Peter Howell of the Toronto Star called it the “worst film ever” adding it was the “biggest waste of talent in cinema history”.
Farrelly said it “may be too outrageous for critics”. That argument might have worked had it not also gone down so badly with American cinemagoers. Box Office Mojo said it had “tanked” after taking $5m in its opening weekend. Critics talked about it in the same vein as flops such as Gigli and Howard the Duck.
The British public have been somewhat more welcoming. According to distributor Momentum Pictures, it was the seventh most popular film of the week, taking £787,648 at the box office.
The critical reception was no better in the UK, however. Total Film named it the “first turkey of 2013,” while Radio Five film critic Mark Kermode said: “I wasn’t appalled or outraged I just felt dirty,” adding it was “staggeringly unfunny, toe-curlingly embarrassing”.
It did receive a positive review, of sorts, from Michael O’Sullivan in The Washington Post. The critic gave the film three and a half stars out of four saying the film opened a “new, unexplored dimension of awfulness where bad is good, and what some might call obscene and offensive is awesome”.
Other famous turkeys:
Hopes had been high for Wall-E director Andrew Stanton’s live-action debut, but John Carter received a critical mauling and the box office performance was disappointing, barely recovering its $250m budget. Disney later blamed the film for sending its Studio Entertainment division into loss.
The Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez movie received a lot of attention because of the romance between the stars. Sadly for anyone who had seen it, none of the attention was positive. It went on to take $4m on the opening weekend following a budget of $75m.
Howard the Duck
The movie, inevitably, became dubbed “Howard the Turkey” upon its release. It took $37.9m, $1m above the production budget and was given four Razzie awards for being so poor. There were rumours that the film had prompted fistfights between executives over who had approved the film.