Daily Archives: April 17, 2006
David Zucker was apart of the team that gave the world Airplane!, The Kentucky Fried Movie, Top Secret, the Naked Gun flicks, Ruthless People, and even Ghost. When the Wayans brothers left the Scary Movie franchise for greener pastures (greener meaning richer), it was Zucker and his stable of writers that came in and gave Scary Movie 3 a fresh kick. Now less than three years later we have Scary Movie 4 poking at the same material, and once again this franchise is starting to feel like a bore.
Cindy Campbell (Anna Farris) is in the home health care business looking after a supposedly haunted house. Inside the house resides those pale, wide-eyed, meowing ghosts from The Grudge. Next door resides Tom Ryan (Craig Bierko), a crappy father watching after his two crappy kids for the weekend. Things get a tad hectic when giant Tr-ipod robots rise from the ground and start zapping everyone. A war of some worlds looks to be in progress. Cindy and Tom go their separate ways, each trying to stay alive and return to each other. Cindy meets her old pal Brenda (Regina Hall) and they journey into the heart of a secluded village, one surrounded by monsters. Somehow they’ll find a way to stop the aliens from destroying the planet. Meanwhile, President Harris (Leslie Nielson), briefed that the country is under attack, is very interested to know what happens to a duck in a children’s story. The only thing missing is a Passion of the Christ parody (talk about a horror movie).
This is a franchise of diminished returns. Zucker and company feel like they’re badly grasping for something. Scary Movie 4 relies far too heavily on juvenile scatological behavior (a urine sponge bath is simply gross, not a gross-out) and very repetitious slapstick. Your level of enjoyment with Scary Movie 4 will rest solely on the question of how many times you can laugh at someone getting hit in the junk. Zucker’s gone practically overboard on the physical comedy, making this the filmic equivalent of “Football in the Groin.” The sad thing about this franchise is how safe it all feels now. It seems to have its demo sights set squarely on teen males, less discerning folk who will pee their pants with groin kick #86 and roll in the aisles uncontrollably with groin kick #113. I’m no prude when it comes to slapstick mind you; a well-timed kick to the groin can be downright Shakespearean, but when an entire film is stuffed with people knocking the stuffing out of themselves, then the joke loses its original flavor. No one wants to keep chewing on something once its flavor has long vanished.
I seriously think there should be a one-term limit when it comes to the comedy teams working with the Scary Movie films. Scary Movie 2 felt like a bad Xerox copy of Scary Movie, heavily smudged and lacking definition. Seriously, how many times can you go back to the giant semen geyser well? So too does Scary Movie 4, Zucker’s second in the series, resonate with the same hackneyed feeling. Zucker’s first movie dialed down the raunch and upped the PG-13 slapstick, and now his second film feels like a less executed duplicate. In Scary Movie 3, the joke was that the creepy psychic kid could never foresee his own clobbering. Therefore, there was an extra comedic layer to watching a kid accurately predict when a woman would start her period but not when a car back into him. In Scary Movie 4, it’s simply been reduced to watched a kid get beaten a lot. Jokes rarely connect when you rob them of context or set-up or just repeat them ad nasuem. Scary Movie 4 feels a bit overly content just to be a copy of a copy. That?s simply depressing.
Even the jokes feel out of touch, smacking of a minimal effort. The Scary Movie franchise was never a place for biting satire, but everything seems so curiously outdated. Viagra jokes in 2006? I guess so. When the film does reference modern items (Myspace, Yahoo maps, Michael Jackson) it still feels awkward. The Brokeback Mountain parody, while shocking in how comparatively restrained it is, comes across dead in the water because our market is over-saturated with gay cowboy jokes. It’s like in 1999 when even your invalid grandmother was doing a Blair Witch Project parody (turns out the witch was just the nurse trying to get her to take her pills). I do realize that the plot parodies are mostly a jumble, bits blended together to house the film’s rapid-fire gags. The Million Dollar Baby parody is probably the best sequence in the film and even that spoofs a cultural event 10 years old. If Scary Movie 4 is targeting teens, to the detriment of the film’s funny, then why even bother referencing pop-culture outside their cognizance? I wonder if the inevitable Scary Movie 5 will have a pointed satire on the Iran-Contra scandal.
Zucker just feels too pleased with himself. His movie parodies are spot-on when it comes to technical execution, replicating even the camera angles from his source material. It’s a pity he has little to add with his tweaking. Any form of comedy gets old with repetition, but slapstick especially. I would think a man like Zucker would know this.
Farris is the best thing that Scary Movie could have ever hoped for. She’s one of the most gifted comedic actresses working today. She’s at home whether it’s the physical, whether it’s delivering a silly line with pitch-perfect dumb blonde finesse, or whether it’s just making exaggerated facial contortions. There’s a music montage of Farris making funny faces that works so well because of how much Farris throws herself entirely into the joke. Too bad the movie lets her down.
Nate’s Grade: C-