Scary Movie 4

Reviewed By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 04/14/06 21:10:16

"Falls somewhere between 'Airplane!' and 'Date Movie'"
3 stars (Just Average)

“Scary Movie 4" is like one of those high-school pageants where everyone puts on a bunch of skits that goof on whatever is popular at the moment without a single thought of trying to tie them into a cohesive whole. Like those shows, it is wildly uneven and for every bit of inspired lunacy, there are three or four that even the most forgiving fan of slob comedy will find irredeemably stupid. And yet, there is a certain slapdash energy and heedless silliness to the proceedings that is somewhat engaging, certainly more so than the hateful likes of “Date Movie.” I can’t in good conscience recommend a film like this but I will suggest that it might not be the worst expenditure of time and money if it comes around to one of those brew’n’view places, provided that the view is cheap and the brew, if possible, cheaper.

While the first two films in the series–the ones steered by the Wayans clan–pretty much restricted their spoof radar to current horror movies and crude sex jokes (to this day, I would love someone from the MPAA to explain to me how those films got R ratings despite containing images that would earn a NC-17 in something that wasn’t a dumb comedy aimed at teens), “Scary Movie 3" widened the net for targets so that jokes revolving around “8 Mile” and “The Matrix” appeared alongside japes on “The Ring” and “Signs.” That, in case you are asking, is why a film entitled “Scary Movie 4" can somehow find room for parodies of such non-horror items as “Million Dollar Baby” and “Brokeback Mountain.” It is sort of a brilliant notion because it ensures that there will always be new material to make fun of without having to depend on the vagaries of the horror genre, though I am terrified that I will one day be reviewing a “Scary Movie 9" that consists of nothing but parodies based on remakes of the films spoofed in the previous eight films.<

Since the notion of describing the plot or the characters of a film like “Scary Movie 4" is actually funnier than most of what is on the screen, I will merely point out that this time around, Anna Faris (whose continued participation in these films marks her as either a good sport or a masochist) plays Sarah Michelle Gellar from “The Grudge,” Craig Bierko plays Tom Cruise from “War of the Worlds” and Bill Pullman plays William Hurt from “The Village.” Others, mostly in cameo appearances, include Molly Shannon, Chris Elliot, James Earl Jones, Charlie Sheen, Cloris Leachman, Shaquille O’Neal and Dr. Phil as themselves , Leslie Nielsen as the President and Carmen Electra as the blind girl from “The Village”–a character who has overcome her handicap enough to dress herself in elaborate erotic underwear but not enough to realize that the place she is noisily relieving herself in isn’t actually the bathroom.

Students of the “Scary Movie” films (now there’s a terrifying notion) may question Electra’s presence here since she was memorably killed off in one of the few funny scenes in the first film (a bit no doubt still discussed by plastic surgeons everywhere). To these charges, I presume that David Zucker–the guy behind both “Scary Movie 3" and “Airplane!,” the film that basically perfected the genre (another “Airplane!” vet, Jim Abrahams, contributed to the screenplay)–would respond by saying that in a series that is so relentlessly uninterested in its own canon that one character (played by Regina Hall) has been killed and revived in every installment, such criticism seems silly and churlish. What I suspect he would really say, given his druthers, is, “Hey, we got Carmen Electra to do a fart joke in sexy underwear. You wanna bitch about canon, go talk to George Lucas about that memory wipe crap.”

“Scary Movie 4" is pretty dumb and even at 83 minutes, it wears out its welcome long before it ends–it is so exhausted for material that the end titles are completely free of bloopers, bonus scenes or the funny credits that fans of the genre have come to expect. Nevertheless, there are some moments that I am content to admit laughing at. (If you are even vaguely considering seeing the film, consider this a Spoiler Warning!) The prologue that manages to mock both the climax of “Saw” and Shaquille O’Neal’s failures at the free-throw line. The bit where Charlie Sheen discovers that the pills he overdosed on weren’t sleeping pills. The bit where we see someone out in the yard chopping Duraflame logs. The appearance by Chingy. The bit that lampoons President Bush’s infamously slow reaction to the alert about the 9/11 attacks. Carmen Electra in her underwear. Finally, there is a nasty and funny rip on Tom Cruise’s infamous couch-hopping appearance with Oprah Winfrey, a scene that Craig Bierko plays with such gleeful relish that I can confidently predict that we will never be seeing him alongside Cruise in a film in this lifetime.

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