Remember the days of "Naked Gun?" Of "Hot Shots?" Of "Loaded Weapon?" The best of spoof comedy is clearly behind us.
From David Zucker, the director behind such classics as "Airplane!" and "The Naked Gun," comes "Scary Movie 4..." the sequel to "Scary Movie 3." A hit-and-miss comedy, "Scary Movie 4" is well-balanced, but that means 45 minutes are funny, and 45 minutes are... not. The best gags already used up in previous pictures, "Scary Movie 4" has to rely solely on the most recent of horror flicks, while throwing in random jokes from other pop culture references as well. The result is a film that is strained for content, but that still manages to be mildly entertaining.
Anna Faris returns as Cindy Campbell, the naive protagonist who always tends to find herself in the wrong place at the wrong time. The only main addition to the cast is Craig Bierko, who plays a rendition of Tom Cruise in "War of the Worlds" and who later spoofs the poor Scientologist in a well-done Oprah reenactment. The two fall in love with one another, and the story proceeds as a blend of "War of the Worlds," "The Village," "Saw," and "The Grudge." Interestingly enough, the movie makes allusions to zombies without ever really spoofing the genre - perhaps it was understood that no one could match "Shaun of the Dead."
"Scary Movie 4" goes from one scene to the next as you might expect - quite randomly and with unpredictable results. Some gags are pretty funny, like a sequence where Shaq and Dr. Phil find themselves locked in the "Saw" bathroom and, while Shaq is forced to make a free throw to save their lives (he keeps missing), Dr. Phil admits to not being a real doctor. In another scene, Cindy is talking to the dead ghost kid from "The Grudge," but while there are subtitles, they are not speaking Japanese. Instead, they are just throwing random, well-known Japanese words together.
Unfortunately, there are other scenes that just fall flat. Charlie Sheen, playing Bill Pullman's character from "The Grudge" (strangely enough, Bill Pullman has a decent-sized role in this movie as well), tries to commit suicide by taking sleeping pills, but accidentally take Viagra instead - computer effects are used to show him grow a giant erection, but the gag is just dumb. Another scene has Tom arguing with a guy on how to not pull up on the handle at the same time as he is unlocking the door; like several sequences in the movie, it goes on forever and was never funny to begin with.
"Scary Movie 4" is a slight improvement over its predecessor, but still none have been able to match the original, which was sick, twisted and at least a little more engrained in the horror genre. I'd love to see Zucker take a stab at making the next "Scary Movie" a little more intelligent - not necessarily with less slapstick, but with more refined and focused gags that actually work. Why not make fun that most successful American horror movies these days are based on even better Japanese films? That America keeps remaking its own classics? Why not point out specific horror movies that really sucked? That PG-13 horror movies are generally a waste of time?
David Zucker has made the "Scary Movie" franchise his own, but compared to his older spoofs it really doesn't compare. "Scary Movie 4" is a fun little movie, but is so inconsistent that it makes repeat viewing rather pointless.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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