Scary Movie 4

For the moment, in the moment, Scary Movie 4 is pretty funny. Even though most of the jokes and barrage of physical gags lack the glue to make them stick, there’s plenty of rib-poking. These films are seldom smart, more the class clown than the valedictorian, but the jokes and references come at you so fast and furious there’s little time for an I.Q. test.


Originally created by the Wayans Brothers as a spoof of Scream, Scary Movie came out of the gate like a squirrel on acid, ripping through cultural icons with maniacal glee. Some were funny, some were not. That’s the nature of the spoof business. When David Zucker, one of the directors of Airplane and Top Secret, took over the series, it morphed into another beast.

Though the humor was still scattershot, Scary Movie 3 was more linear. What I love about Zucker is his ability to put us in the moment, no matter how absurd the moment is. His mix of deadpan reactions and brusque humor make Scary Movie 4 much better than it has a right to be. Though the jokes aren’t nearly as timeless as in Airplane, most manage to nail their target.

As long as there are horror and science-fiction films, the Scary Movie franchise should manage to scare up enough material for 80 minutes of laughs. Scary Movie 4 is a hodgepodge of ideas. The writers tap into War of the Worlds, The Grudge, The Village, and numerous other marquee moments to come up with a plot that lampoons our current administration and out-of-control, clueless superstars.

Series regular Anna Faris returns as sensationally dumb blonde Cindy Campbell, whose character over the course of three films has gone from one embarrassing incident to the next. Faris is a good sport, an actress willing to do whatever it takes for a laugh. Anyone familiar with her grooming habits and oral proclivity in the original Scary Movie know what I’m taking about.

After taking care of some old business (dispensing Charlie Sheen’s character from 3, subjecting guest stars Shaquille O’Neal and Dr. Phil to a deadly game of free throw) Scary Movie 4 erupts into action. Campbell finds herself attending to an elderly lady (Cloris Leachman, still game after all these years) when she suspects that the house is haunted.

It is, but Campbell finds more distraction in hunky neighbor Tom Ryan (Craig Bierko). An alien invasion forces Cindy, Tom their family and friends to flee the city, leaving no sacred cow untipped. Writers Craig Mazin, Jim Abrahams, and Zucker pepper the exodus with parodies of other films, like another trip up Brokeback Mountain, and into a Village inhabited by people seemingly lost in time.

The privilege of watching films like Scary Movie 4 is enjoying them for what they are. They’re dumb comedies, but that doesn’t mean they’re not entertaining. The jokes are broad, in your face, and often scatological. Is the sight of someone sponging off Cloris Leachman with the contents of her bedpan rather than bath water funny? Yes it is.

So is watching B-list actors sucking the last seconds out of their fifteen minutes of fame. Michael Madsen gives Tim Robbins a run for his sanity after the aliens attack, and quite frankly, seeing Mike Tyson in drag allows me to check one more item off my to-do list. Leslie Nielsen returns as the clueless president who would rather sit and listen to the conclusion of a children’s book than react to the United States being under attack. The 80-year-old Nielsen is fearless in his conviction, even getting naked for a presidential debriefing.

Faris gets the best material and delivers her lines with such impish innocence you can’t help but laugh. Though her character died in each of the previous films, Regina King returns as Campbell’s horny friend Brenda. Bierko, with his shoe polish black hair and mile-wide grin, looks like a hero, but don’t try telling that to Ryan’s kids, who find his parenting skills more than troubling. Bierko goes out of his way to make the action star look foolish, but nothing he does is as funny as the erratic, brainwashed behavior of the real thing.

If you can’t find something to laugh about in Scary Movie 4, then you’re dead.

Cruisin’ For a Bruisin’Latest Spoof Takes on Tom FooleryScary Movie 4

Ana Faris, Regina Hall, Craig Bierko, Anthony Anderson, Leslie Nielsen, Simon Rex, Bill Pullman, Dr. Phil McGraw, Carmen Electra. Directed by David Zucker. Rated PG-13.

Larsen Rating: $6.00



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