REVIEW: Scary Movie 4

That the “Scary Movie” franchise has actually reached a fourth installment is at once surprising and innevitable. It’s original Wayans Bros.-created film was a more amusing-than-expected lowbrow spoof of then-recent slasher films, notable exclusively for the sheer R-rated audacity of it’s gross-out sex gags. A throwaway sequel followed quickly, doing so-so boxoffice but providing inspiration to it’s studio: Done at proper efficiently, quickie “spoofs” both summarizing and making broad “hey! that’s from ______” jokes at the expense of the notable movies of the past year could provide a profitable franchise with an inexhaustible supply of reference material. Enter David Zucker, who helped invent this genre with “Airplane,” who took over from the Wayans to deliver a newer, broader, PG-13 hit with “Scary Movie 3.” Zucker returns for #4, alongside the impossible adorable series-mainstay Anna Faris.

This time around the gags are less rapid-fire than previously, zeroing in on “War of The Worlds,” “The Grudge,” “Saw” and “The Village,” with brief side digs at “Million Dollar Baby” and, of course, “Brokeback Mountain.” The “War” riff takes up the majority of the story, so Faris finds herself sharing screentime with Craig Beirko doing a scary-good goof on the public and onscreen faces of Tom Cruise. Charlie Sheen cameos from the previous installment for a scene while spoof-specialist Leslie Neilsen reprises his turn as a dimwitted President who’s big scene MAY be a riff on “Fahrenheit 911” but, since it’s goofing on actual footage, could possibly be called the first “9/11 joke” in a mainstream comedy. Shaquille O’Neil and Dr. Phil re-enact the goings on of “Saw;” but the most “meta” gags come from Bill Pullman, relating to his being the only main actor appearing from one of the films BEING spoofed.

Most of it’s funny, some of it’s not, none of it’s classic. Overall, the cleverness the film shows in making a (mostly) cohesive story out of recreations of disparate other movies is usually funnier than the jokes themselves. Zucker is a pro, and the production manages to be damn good at making their parodies look and feel like the genuine article. The “WOTW” bits are both the funniest and the most faithfully-adapted.

There are some missteps: The obligatory “Brokeback” swipe is funny, but shoehorned awkwardly into the narrative as a flashback and really isn’t any more clever than the thousands of spoofs the ubiquitous “gay cowboy movie” has already inspired for over a year now. And while I’m laughing at the spot-on “Village” shredding… how many people really remember that much about “The Village” other than it sucking so terribly?

This is the cute diversion it wants to be, Bierko is starting to look like a real character-talent… as a time-waster, I’d say reccomended.


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