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Scary Movie 3 (2003)

Spoofs can be done well (Airplane, The Naked Gun films) or they can be embarrassing and wretched to sit through (Not Another Teen Movie). Where does Scary Movie 3 fit in, especially when the creators of the first two installments of the series are absent this time around?

Scary Movie 3 starts off with a preacher (Charlie Sheen) finding mysterious crop circles in his fields of wheat. Elsewhere, Cindy (Anna Farris, once again the Scary Movie ingénue), a bubbling reporter, is investigating a mysterious tape that kills whoever watches it. The plots for Signs and The Ring are thrown into a blender, and the ensuing mush is the shaky plot for Scary Movie 3 to stage its jokes within.

But instead of swinging for the stars, Scary Movie 3 often settles for countless swings to the head or crotch. I swear, I saw more people getting hit in the crotch in Scary Movie 3 than if I had spent a weekend strapped to a chair, Clockwork Orange-style, and been forced to watch an endless loop of America’’s Funniest Home Videos. It’’s almost like sixth graders wrote the script, and their creative process revolved around the question, “”Will someone getting hit in a sensitive body area ever not be funny?”” And of course, the answer was, “”Never, dude. Let’’s go look at your dad’’s nudie magazines now.””

Despite the scattershot nature of spoofs, Scary Movie 3 is a noticeable step up from its predecessor. Scary Movie 2 was comedy lost in the woods as if it were in search of a Blair Witch of comedic sensibility , unsure of any direction and falling back on lame gross-out gags and scatological humor. When you have to go to the “giant geyser of semen” more than once, you’’ve got some dire script problems. Credit new director David Zucker (Airplane, Naked Gun) with classing up the place after the absence of the Wayans’ brothers, who wrote and directed the previous Scary Movie films.

Scary Movie 3 has more of a steady footing for its comedy, but its parodies can seem flat. A Matrix: Reloaded parody with George Carlin as the uppity Architect only serves to make you remember that Will Ferrell did it better for the 2003 MTV Movie Awards. The lengthy subplot supposedly spoofing 8 Mile is dead on arrival. He’s white, get it? No, really, get it? Hey, didn’’t Eminem actually rap about this at the end of 8 Mile? So then Scary Movie 3 isn’t even parodying 8 Mile so much as repeating it in inferiority. There are several times that Scary Movie 3 seems like it’s struggling to lampoon anything popular at the time, no matter if it has anything funny to say about it.

What redeems Scary Movie 3 is what made the original Scary Movie so enjoyable: several scenes of laugh-out-loud, tears-in-you-eyes comedy. Some personal favorites of mine are scenes that go bizarrely over-the-top, like the funeral of Regina Hall, or the more clever jabs at pop culture, like the origin of the evil videotape having something to do with Pootie Tang. Faris is also a very talented comedic actress that proves game for whatever is thrown at her (usually at her head).

So while some of the topical parodies may not work, Scary Movie 3 seems to hit its stride when touching on others. Characters get battered, bruised, flattened, smacked, and thrown all around like the film was a living cartoon. Many of the film’s jokes are juvenile, but not the puerile juvenile demeanor the Wayans dealt in. Scary Movie 3 is the first film of the franchise to be rated PG-13, and in some lights it liberates the comedy. Instead of trying to out-do sex gags, the filmmakers turn toward the more universal art of slapstick and a slyer pop culture commentary. The comedy may only be there in spurts but it is there.

With any comedy there are hits and misses, and Scary Movie 3 has plenty of misses (a kid being beaten repeatedly does not get funnier as it goes), but when it hits its targets it strikes hard. And when it doesn’t? Well, I do so hope you like people getting hit in the crotch. Scary Movie 3 is worth a rental price and best enjoyed with large quantities of popcorn, friends, and alcoholic beverages. Fans of slapstick will be tickled pink, people who left the franchise after Scary Movie 2 may rejoin the flock.

Nate’s Grade: B-

Scream 3 (2000)

Master of the macabre Wes Craven returns to the most anticipated and secretive horror series in recent memory. The Scream saga opened the doors for the teen proliferation of all that is commercial, and now the same people come back to close the book on what they started. At least that’s what the idea was.

Craven proves his directing credentials even more so with this vapidly dull sequel to the sequel about horror sequels. Even when the story is dragging, and it will, he wrings some amount of tension and excitement that I’m sure would likely be absent from any other director’s hands.

The void of teen powerhouse scribe Kevin Williamson is distinguishing, but newbie Miramax goldenboy Ehren Kruger walks the walk effectively. What is sadly absent are the touches of irony and intrigue that Williamson dabbled through like a French chef. Ghostface loses the edge it had in the earlier flicks where the deaths would all be unusually related to the topic at hand in some clever way. But in Scream 3 the irony is left behind at the Williamson offices and killer-man-guy just hacks people away. No interesting approaches or set-ups, just unrelenting running and slashing.

Scream 3‘s biggest drawback may be the lack of the central mystery the first two exhibited so well. ‘Scream 3’ introduces about 15 different characters, but then quickly enough kills off about 14 of them. Face it kids, if Scream 3 is your first Scream flick you ain’t making it to the end credits. Kruger lays no clues or red herrings for the audience to gape and trip over in wondering who is behind the killer’s mask. More time is spent needlessly killing needless characters than creatively playing the audience along an intricate guessing game that would have made the movie more enjoyable.

It may sound like I’m coming down hard on Scream 3 but, on the contrary, I had a huge amount of fun with it. Parker Posey is wonderful. I was laughing often and was usually entertained even though I could sense the franchise losing its steam. Besides a lame ending (two in a row), Scream 3 is good popcorn fun but nothing more promising than that.

Ladies and gentlemen the Scream horror series has finally degenerated into the very thing it’s making fun of. Except with this installment it seems not to know that the joke is on them.

Nate’s Grade: C+

 

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