Director: David Zucker
Starring: Anna Faris, Craig Bierko, Regina Hall
Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual humor throughout, some comic violence and language.
The Scary Movie films have been an inexplicable box-office juggernaut, reaping hundreds of millions of dollars despite the fact that they’ve exhibited not a shred of ingenuity, originality or, well, humor. Where old-school spoof flicks like Airplane!, The Naked Gun and Hot Shots took a recognizable film genre and milked it for every gag possible, the Scary Movie films have devolved into a scattershot collection of slapstick sketches connected loosely (if at all) by recurring characters. The upshot is that The Naked Gun‘s gags are funny because they lampoon characteristics inherent to the cop genre, while Scary Movie‘s gags are not funny, because they exist entirely without context. We’re supposed to laugh simply because we recognize the setup (“Oh, look–this scene is like War of the Worlds! Get it?”)
This fourth installment takes shots at Saw, The Village, The Grudge, Million Dollar Baby, War of the Worlds, Dark Water, Hustle & Flow, Harry Potter and, of all things, Brokeback Mountain. The comedy, predictably, aims for the lowest common denominator. In fact, the image at the head of this review is a perfect visual summary of what you can expect from this flick.
The cast, bless their hearts, is game enough. Craig Bierko in particular shows glints of comic timing that could have elevated this romp if the script had allowed more room for genuine humor. (Bierko gets the best line in the film: “That does sound like a face.”) Series vet Anna Faris remains as bland and uninspired as she was in the first three outings. Still, movies like this don’t live or die by their on-screen talent, and the utlimate failure belongs to director David Zucker, whose ham-fisted set-ups and and clumsy production values cripple nearly all the sight gags.
All this is especially woeful because Zucker is the same man who brought us Airplane!, The Naked Gun and Top Secret. While those films took affectionate jabs at their straight counterparts, Scary Movie is just cynical and lazy filmmaking. According to IMDB, Zucker currently has a superhero spoof in pre-production. That’s a genre ripe for a good parody (Blankman and Leonard Part 6 didn’t cut it), and we can only hope that this once-great comic director remembers what made his early films such a delight.