Sunday, July 23, 2017

Movie 43 (2013) and Wraparound Stories

There are pros and cons to every type of movie, and anthologies might have the most of both associated with them.  That’s because of the way that anthology movies are made.  They tell multiple stories and there are different ways in which the stories are presented.  There are two main methods to showcase the stories.  One is to simply have them, one after another, with title cards in between.  The other, and possibly more common method, is to create a wraparound story that happens between the segments.

If a filmmaker or group of filmmakers use the wraparound concept, it becomes important that they do it right.  This story becomes the most important of the entire movie since it sets up everything that happens.  Wraparound stories are not pages in a book flipping to get to the next story.  They are not channels on a television changing to begin a new “show.”  The wraparound stories are actual tales that have characters.  They are a story and should be treated or seen as such.

Like any story, there are ways that it can be better or worse.  The use of humour, the performances, and the overall structure can make a wraparound story more bearable.  They could even make a wraparound story good.  That’s crazy, isn’t it?  This part is important to keep a viewer’s attention and get them invested in the other stories that come up.

One movie that can show how important a wraparound story can be is Movie 43.  The movie was released in two versions, one American and one international.  Each version had a different wraparound story that tied the segments together.  I had the chance to check out each version in preparation for this post, which gives me the opportunity to compare them and examine the strengths and weaknesses of each.

The first wraparound story that I saw was called The Thread.  This was included in the international version of Movie 43.  Calvin Cutter (Mark L. Young) enlisted his friend J.J. (Adam Cagley) to play a prank on his brother Baxter (Devin Eash).  They told Baxter that they needed to find a banned video called Movie 43.  While he was searching for it, Calvin took Baxter’s laptop and watched a bunch of porn that would put viruses on the laptop.  Baxter went down a rabbit hole finding terrible videos before realizing that Movie 43 was a video from the future, signalling the end of the world.

The Thread was the more annoying of the two wraparound stories because the characters were all annoying and it was the simplest way to go from video to video.  The setup for each video was “I found another video” or “Let’s try this video.”  It wasn’t much of a setup, and really, any video could have played anywhere.  There was no real effort put into it.  The Thread wasn’t entertaining and definitely only got me excited about the different segments because then I wouldn’t have to watch the wraparound anymore.

The place where it fell apart was in the characters.  The Thread had three irritating characters in Calvin, J.J., and Baxter.  Calvin was the cocky, dumb, older brother who wanted revenge for nothing.  He was being a jerk and we were supposed to sympathize with him.  J.J. was just kind of there and had not much to do with anything other than being the sidekick.  Baxter was almost as bad as his brother, being the know-it-all computer guy, acting smarter and superior to everyone.  It got even worse when his future self was having sex with his mother.  It just got weird for no reason.  That fit with the rest of the movie, but didn’t make for an entertaining wraparound story.  Without caring for the characters, you don’t care for the story.  And that’s where the other wraparound, though also not great, improved the movie slightly.

The Pitch was the wraparound story for the American release of Movie 43.  This story played out much differently than the first.  Charlie Wessler (Dennis Quaid) was a screenwriter pitching his new ideas to a producer named Griffin Schraeder.  The first few stories didn’t go over so well, so Griffin declined the idea offers.  Charlie didn’t like this and pulled a gun on the producer.  He forced Griffin to go to the head of the production company and demand money from Bob Mone (Common).  Bob had recently slept with Griffin’s wife, and after okaying the series of shorts that Charlie wanted, Griffin went on a downward spiral ending in an attempted revenge on his boss.

There was more thought put into the story of The Pitch, and more work done to make the characters sympathetic.  They weren’t teens watching porn and playing jokes on each other while searching for videos.  Charlie Wessler was a down on his luck screenwriter hoping for one last shot at making a movie.  Griffin Schraeder was a man who had been walked over for many years and had finally snapped.  They were relatable, even if they were off the charts bonkers.  Their story arcs resonated and had some slight emotion put into them.  It helped that the jokes worked in some instances as well, which wasn’t the case with The Thread.

The weakest part of The Pitch was its ending.  It was funny, but took away from the story because there was no real resolution.  Spoilers ahead.  Griffin confronted Bob in the parking lot, going to more extreme lengths than Charlie had when trying to pitch his ideas.  Bob shot Griffin.  Then all of the actors broke character and said they shouldn’t even have that scene and should just go to the final segment.  The breaking character was funny.  The lack of resolution to the Griffin storyline left me wanting more.  That’s weird to say with Movie 43, but that’s what happened.

Regardless of the ending, there was still one more thing that put The Pitch above The Thread as a wraparound story.  That one thing was how it set up the segments.  In The Thread, the segments were videos that the kids had found on their computer.  There were no direct references to what was happening.  The kids just said “What the hell was that?” and went to the next video.  In the scenario of The Pitch, Charlie Wessler was pitching these ideas to production executives.  He would set them up by describing what they were about.  Once the shorts ended, the characters would reference them directly.  The segments affected where the story went.  There was a reason for everything that happened, and it revolved around the different comedy shorts within Movie 43.  The wraparound tied everything together, much like a thread should, and The Thread didn’t do that.

As you can somewhat see, when a filmmaker decides to use a wraparound story in their anthology film, it becomes an important part of what makes or breaks the movie.  A bad wraparound can be annoying and cause someone to lose interest in the movie before going to the next segment.  A good wraparound can blend into the movie in a way that feels natural as it tells a story that involves every other story.  It’s an important building block to structure the entertainment.

Movie 43 may not have been a good movie, but it found a good wraparound for itself in The Pitch.  I don’t know if it was the first of the two wraparounds created, or if The Thread came before it.  It doesn’t matter.  The Pitch enhanced the movie in a way that The Thread wasn’t able to.  It felt connected to everything else.  The Thread felt like any short films could have been used.  The Pitch integrated the segments into its story which strengthened the overall movie.  If you’re going to watch Movie 43, which I wouldn’t recommend, make sure you see the version with The Pitch.  It won’t be a good movie, but it’s the better of the two options.
Now let’s get to the notes so we can get out of here:

  • Another anthologiey I have seen for the Sunday “Bad” Movies is The Summer of Massacre.
  • Movie 43 was suggested by @prfessorsock, who also suggested Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star.
  • Now for the long list of actor connections.  Halle Berry made her fourth Sunday “Bad” Movies appearance with Movie 43.  She has also been in New Year’s Eve, Die Another Day, and Catwoman.
  • Uma Thurman is now a three time Sunday “Bad” Movies alumnus.  She was in Movie 43, but before that, she was in Playing for Keeps and Batman & Robin.
  • Also in Movie 43 and Playing for Keeps was Dennis Quaid.  He’s also a third timer this week.  His other movie was Jaws 3-D.
  • The third person to reach the three timer level this week was Gerard Butler, who was also in Movie 43 and Playing for Keeps.  His third movie was Timeline.
  • Common and Josh Duhamel were both in New Year’s Eve.  They returned this week in Movie 43.
  • Movie 43 was the second Sunday “Bad” Movie for both Austin Cope and Charlie Saxton, who were each in The Happening.
  • Mother’s Day saw the introduction of Aasif Mandvi and Jason Sudeikis to the Sunday “Bad” Movies.  They both made a second appearance by being in Movie 43.
  • Terrence Howard was in Movie 43.  He was in an early Sunday “Bad” Movie when he had a part in Glitter.
  • A Haunted House brought J.B. Smoove into the Sunday “Bad” Movies, and he came back for Movie 43.
  • Movie 43 was a return for Julie Claire, who was in Beverly Hills Chihuahua.
  • One of the actors in Movie 43 was Martin Klebba, who was also in Foodfight!
  • Martin Pfeffercorn was in Movie 43 and Sharknado 2: The Second One.  That makes two Sunday “Bad” Movies appearances.
  • Finally, Chris Pratt was one of the many actors in Movie 43.  A few weeks ago, he made his Sunday “Bad” Movies debut with a small role in Jem and the Holograms.
  • One of the directors of Movie 43 was Steven Brill.  He was the director of Sandy Wexler.
  • Have you seen Movie 43?  Have you seen the two different wraparound stories?  What do you think about wraparounds?  Discuss any of this in the comments.
  • Movie 43 was a suggested movie for me to watch.  If you have a movie you want to suggest for me to watch, let me know.  There are two main places to do that.  You can leave your suggestions in the comments, or you can find me on Twitter and suggest there.
  • Sometimes when I’m watching bad movies, I put clips of them into my snapchat story.  My username is jurassicgriffin.  If you want to see some of these clips, add me.
  • Now let’s look to next week’s movie.  It seems like another rip-off that I’ll be covering, but it isn’t quite that.  The movie is more of an advertisement for toys.  GoBots: Battle of the Rock Lords is coming up in seven days.  I don’t have anything to say about it yet.  We’ll see next week what I say.

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