Dennis Quaid, Greg Kinnear and Common star in a scene from the movie "Movie 43." The Catholic News Service classification is O -- morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying paren t or adult guardian. (CNS photo/Relativity)
Dennis Quaid, Greg Kinnear and Common star in a scene from the movie "Movie 43." The Catholic News Service classification is O -- morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying paren t or adult guardian. (CNS photo/Relativity)
Big names fail to produce big laughs in "Movie 43" (Relativity). Though star-studded, this collection of gross-out comedy shorts is also sick.

The skits are framed by the story of a madman named Charlie Wessler (Dennis Quaid) who's trying to pitch his perverse script ideas to Hollywood studio executive Griffin Schraeder (Greg Kinnear). Schraeder quickly reacts with outrage, only to have Wessler draw a gun and hold him prisoner while Wessler's twisted tales continue to fill the screen.

A detailed description of the incidents imagined by this Scheherazade of slime would itself constitute an exercise in tastelessness. Suffice it to say that an ensemble of directors too numerous to list -- 10 in all -- labor vainly to draw humor from subjects like incest, menstruation, aberrant sexual desires and abortion.

There's even an updated version of Fritz the Cat, a cartoon feline called Beezel whose same-sex attraction to his owner, Anson (Josh Duhamel), is, as it turns out, mutual -- much to the consternation of Anson's live-in girlfriend Amy (Elizabeth Banks).

Inexplicably, stars from Hugh Jackman and Kate Winslet to Emma Stone and Richard Gere -- not to mention the familiar figures credited, if that's the right word, above -- seem to have flocked to this queasy project. Moviegoers can go them one better by staying away from it.

The film contains pervasive obscene and scatological humor, brief semigraphic sexual activity, full nudity, about a half-dozen uses of profanity and relentless rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is O -- morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.