Ever since “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” released over 50 years ago, Hollywood has enjoyed occasionally recurring epic comedies with incredible A-list casts. How some of those have been made deserves a documentary, even if it seems far too many A-list actors enjoy at least one giant cinematic party. We also have to assume those A-list stars go into such films knowing it’s strictly for fun and not for placement on a classics list.
Even if “Mad World” is somewhat of a classic today, you can only say that because of the iconic stars in the film and not the material. In fact, if you’re not a fan of slapstick, the film may be the equivalent of a catapult throwing a pie in your own face. Upcoming “Movie 43” may be a direct beneficiary of “Mad World”, except with the allowance of seeing similar A-list stars be as prurient as they can muster.
So far, the worst we’ve seen in that department is in the documentary “The Aristocrats.” But we had yet to see a truly dirty fictional comedy with a compendium of A-list stars you wouldn’t have expected to show up. Not that all of them were reportedly there together during the four years it took to film Peter Farrelly’s “Movie 43.”
Just what attracts A-list stars to join an all-star comedy with a high probability rate of box office failure? We’ve seen so many examples in recent history that the theory of being attracted to an on-set party must be the only reason. It must explain why “The Cannonball Run” movies were ever given a green light when it’s easy to argue they’re virtually worthless without the surprising cast names. When Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis, Jr. showed up in cameos, it proved the aging Rat Pack were still gravitating to parties on film sets, content be damned.
The original “Ocean’s 11” 20 years earlier was one rare exception where the content was as fun as the A-list cast was apparently having. It’s harder to tell if similar stars were having a ball in more serious A-list-packed travesties such as the original “The Poseidon Adventure” or “The Towering Inferno.” After it turned so serious in disaster movies, A-list party comedies resumed sporadically during the 1980s and ’90s with the worsening “Cannonball Run” sequels, “Mars Attacks!” in 1995, and “An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn.”
We’ve even seen an attempted recent renaissance in the above genre, ironically with Ricky Gervais as co-writer, co-director, and co-producer (perhaps to deflect blame) in “The Invention of Lying.” How he managed to land Jennifer Garner, Tina Fey, and cameos by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Edward Norton is anyone’s guess. He must have hired a wickedly good caterer who brought intense libations to keep things light.
“Movie 43” could very well turn out to be the last gasp of the above film where most of the A-list stars don’t bother to wash their mouths out with soap. Some of the stars may rue the day appearing in the movie, even if those few might have thought it wouldn’t be seen by many eyes. The ultimate risk is in treating these films as a straight-to-DVD affair and then seeing them become unexpected hits at the box office.
That very well could happen to “Movie 43” in the age of increasing curiosity seeing someone such as Halle Berry be as mockingly dirty as she ever has been in a movie.