Tomorrow, the film Movie 43 opens, and if its stars have their way, you'll never know a thing about it. As amusingly detailed in the New York Post this week, the myriad of movie stars involved in Movie 43 — including Richard Gere, Naomi Watts, Halle Berry, Emma Stone, Hugh Jackman and Kate Winslet — want nothing to do with the movie, and the studio isn't just burying the film, it's not showing it in advance to critics, time-tested proof they know they have a disaster on their hands.
Movie 43 is a sketch-comedy film that originally featured the South Park guys and the Zucker brothers before they all dropped out and left only the Farrelly brothers and some other people hanging around. It has the look of that terrifying Adrien Brody-ShamWow guy movie, only with bigger stars and less Lindsay Lohan.
But it's clear what inspired the people behind the movie: The Kentucky Fried Movie. That's the 1977 film directed by John Landis — who got Animal House because of the gig — and written by the comedy team of David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker... the people who would make Airplane! just three years later. Like anyone who saw Airplane! and The Naked Gun when they were a kid, I became obsessed with the ZAZ comedy team, and made sure to seek out The Kentucky Fried Movie. When I was 14, I thought it was the funniest, most dangerous movie I'd ever seen, particularly because it had many, many, many naked breasts in it. I think I watched the "Catholic High School Girls In Trouble" sketch 15 times in a row once, just rewinding and rewatching, rewinding and rewatching.
I remembered The Kentucky Fried Movie being hilarious, but I wasn't sure if that was just the 14-year-old me talking. So I sat down to watch it again. I figured I'd just go in and look at it sketch-by-sketch, assessing both amusement value and cheerful offensiveness. After all, the supposed breaking of taboos was meant to be a large part of the appeal, as least as much as the comedy itself. Let's see how it holds up.
Sketch: "Argon Oil."
Premise: A major oil conglomerate discovers a new energy source by suctioning oil off the faces of teenagers, the combs of Italian men and the bottom of fast-food bags and gas from the bathrooms of chili dog restaurants.
Modern-Day Offensiveness: None. If only real-world oil conglomerates were so resourceful and responsible.
Modern-Day Amusement: 3. Though fart sounds are and always will be funny.
Sketch: "A.M. Today."
Premise: A morning TV news show features a man doing a live report who can't hear the news desk, and a zoo handler whose gorilla is enraged when he's called impotent.
Modern-Day Offensiveness: None, though your outrage mileage concerning primate erectile dysfunction may vary.
Amusement: 3. It goes on way too long and is a fairly standard news show parody at this point, but you have to love introducing the astrology report with, "remember: these reports are not intended to foster belief in astrology, but merely to support people who cannot take responsibility for their own lives."
Sketch: "Catholic High School Girls In Trouble."
Premise: A movie trailer features the most over-the-top exploitation film of all time.
Modern-Day Offensiveness: It's pretty rare to see an extreme closeup of a woman fondling her breasts for 25 seconds in the theater anymore.
Amusement: 4. Probably the most dated sketch in the whole movie. Boobs against a shower door make a funnier sound than you'd think. Naked Gun fans will appreciate the scene in which a woman seductively tells a man, "show me your nuts," and he does this:
Sketch: "'See You Next Wednesday,' In Feel-a-Round."
Premise: As a man watches a film, a theater usher acts out what's happening in the film.
Modern-Day Offensiveness: Watching a man pay three dollars for a movie made the hair stand up on the back of my neck.
Amusement: 1. This sketch doesn't even make any sense.
Sketch: "High Adventure."
Premise: An adventure program interviewing an explorer features an a boom mike operator who keeps causing hijinks.
Modern-Day Offensiveness: This one has several of the movie's casual "gay people are fuckin' gross" jokes.
Amusement: 0. The boom mike operator makes them kiss! Ewww!
Sketch: "The Wonderful World of Sex."
Premise: A couple that's trying to get in the mood for sex put on an instructional record that keeps telling them to do things far more difficult in practice than in theory.
Modern-Day Offensiveness: I sorta wish "honker" would come back as a euphemism for the penis.
Amusement: 4. The finishing gag—that the record comes equipped with "Big Jim Slade," a bodybuilder who taps in if the man prematurely ejaculates—is great, particularly the wave he gives the poor schmuck as he carries off his wife.
Sketch: "A Fistful of Yen"
Premise: A half-hour long satire of Bruce Lee movies.
Modern-Day Offensiveness: This is probably the worst one: It's one long, long, LONG sequence of "Asians talk funny and have weird-sounding words!" "gags."
Amusement: 0. I even fast-forwarded through this whole segment on the VCR when I was 14.
Sketch: "Scot Free"
Premise: An advertisement for a board game in which you and your conspirators try to get away with the Kennedy assassination.
Modern-Day Offensiveness: Probably more daring 14 years after JFK's death than it is now.
Amusement: 4. I love the idea of a "wheel of public opinion."
Sketch: "United Appeal for the Dead."
Premise: A public service announcement on how to help dead people feel more useful.
Modern-Day Offensiveness: I'm pretty sure the repulsion of watching the corpse of a dead child floating face down in a pool while everyone splashes happily around it will never be dated.
Amusement: 5. All right, when little dead Jimmy is seated at the dinner table and falls flat into his soup, I laughed.
Premise: A old-time People's Court-type show with tons of jokes about ‘50s television and Airplane!-esque puns.
Modern-Day Offensiveness: Lots more gay jokes in this one. Also, there's a commercial where a cat gets boiled alive, if that's the sort of thing you have an issue with.
Amusement: 7. Way too long, but it's tough not to chuckle when a lawyer says, "Let's listen to the tape," and begins to loudly unspool a roll of duct tape, grinning like an idiot. This is the first sketch where you can see Airplane! coming.
Sketch: "Zinc Oxide And You"
Premise: An educational film shows a housewife realizing how she can't survive without products made from zinc oxide.
Modern-Day Offensiveness: A kid gets shot with a rifle, so you might not like that.
Amusement: 5. The idea of a malevolent newsreel narrator slowly torturing an innocent woman isn't the worst one. The punch line at the end makes the whole sketch.
Sketch: "Danger Seekers."
Premise: A show about daredevils features the most daring stunt of all.
Modern-Day Offensiveness: So: A man puts on a crash helmet, literally crosses a set of railroad tracks, comes across a group of black men playing dice (of course) and yells, "Niggers!" He then takes off running.
Amusement: I just told you the whole sketch, so insert your own rating here. I trust your judgment.
Sketch: "Eyewitness News."
Premise: As a couple has sex on their couch, the newscasters on their television watch them and provide running commentary.
Modern-Day Offensiveness: They really were a lot more liberal about nudity in the ‘70s.
Amusement: 6. It's made by the Zucker brothers and Abrahams as crew members who begin cheering on the sexing couple.
So I'm not sure it holds up that well today, but only the truly classic comedies really can. All told: I probably should have just watched The Naked Gun again.
Grierson & Leitch is a regular column about the movies. Follow us on Twitter, @griersonleitch.