Mark Reviews Movies


2 ½ Stars (out of 4)

Director: David Zucker

Cast: Anna Faris, Charlie Sheen, Simon Rex, Regina Hall, Leslie Nielsen, Drew Mikuska, Anthony Anderson, Jeremy Piven, Pamela Anderson, Jenny McCarthy

MPAA Rating:  (for pervasive crude and sexual humor, language, comic violence and drug references)

Running Time: 1:24

Release Date: 10/24/03

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Review by Mark Dujsik

Scary Movie 3 takes the franchise in a new direction, a dramatic response to the creative failure of the first sequel. It wasn't really a necessary change, but it works fairly well and is a nice improvement over Scary Movie 2. Unlike the previous two entries, this one is not in the vein of the gross-out comedy, and its PG-13 rating is a giveaway to that fact. Instead, the tone is zanier, the jokes centering more on pratfalls and, of all things, spoofing recent horror movies. Yes, it may seem odd after the last sequel's awkward attempt to bring in as many popular movies as possible, even if they weren't of the horror persuasion. This time around, there are only two writers (as opposed to seven the last time around), and they're focused on remembering that the series if rooted in sending up horror movies. Even so, there are a few disappointing deviations that hinder the comic thrust of the movie, but still, I'm not ashamed to admit that, yes, I did have a few good belly laughs throughout it.

The plot takes the outlines of The Ring and Signs and molds them into an appropriately throwaway story. We're set up for pratfalls and physical comedy right off the bat in an opening scene that directly rips off the opening scene of The Ring. In it, two "girls" played by Pamela Anderson and Jenny McCarthy talk about a killer videotape, get into a catfight, and end up dead. We then return to the series' heroine Cindy Campbell (Anna Faris, who has the ditzy act down pat), now a television journalist working for a news department that's all about sex and violence and has no interest in this videotape story. She's now taking care of her young nephew Cody (Drew Mikuska), and her old friend Brenda Meeks (Regina Hall) is his school teacher. Cindy takes the story personally when Brenda falls prey to the tape. Meanwhile on a farm outside of Washington, D.C., Tom (Charlie Sheen) has lost his faith after the death of his wife, and now finds a mysterious crop circle (which cryptically says "Attack here") in his cornfield.

Are the tape and the aliens connected? Will Cindy find out the secret of the tape in time to save her nephew? Why am I taking this seriously? This isn't sophisticated satire, but that's not exactly what one expects from this kind of material. The movie does find success in its little details. The opening scene is dead on in some of its observations ("Big house, one phone?"), and the running gag poking fun at the cliché of the randomly clairvoyant child is right on target. Many shots are stolen to the letter from their source material, which is a joke only observant audience members will get but is appreciated nonetheless. Much of the humor revolving around the Signs plot thread works as well, especially a showcase of disturbing video footage in which an alien appears in the middle of weird home videos. Charlie Sheen helps with many of the more obvious jokes, like the flashback scene where he just doesn't understand what has happened to his wife, with his fine deadpan delivery. Speaking of deadpan, Leslie Nielsen, the king of deadpan, plays the bumbling President and even revives one of his more memorable gags from Airplane! during one bit.

When the movie veers away from horror movies or movies in general, the results are typically on the latter side of hit and miss. There are a few questionable parodies, especially 8 Mile and The Matrix Reloaded. A rap battle sequence goes nowhere, and doesn't even seem like a joke in the first place. The only thing the scene does is remind us how refreshing such scenes from its source material were. Maybe the very final payoff is amusing, but the entire reference is out of place here. There's promise to a scene that mocks the infamously verbose Architect dialogue from The Matrix Reloaded, and the cameo appearance (whom I will not mention to keep the surprise) within it is a worth a good chuckle. Unfortunately, the scene goes nowhere as well. Outside of the faulty movie references, there are a few notable regular jokes that fall flat. A scene in which a corpse is attacked pushes taste boundaries a bit too far for my money, and the pedophilic Catholic priest joke is officially dead. On the other hand, a moment where Sheen dangles a faux Michael Jackson from a window and asks how he likes it is pretty funny.

Scary Movie 3 is directed by spoof veteran David Zucker, who in effect redeems himself after the atrocious, dismal, and loathsome My Boss's Daughter. I notice that I never specifically mentioned Zucker's name in my review of that travesty, which I suppose points to a hope that he still had the capacity to turn out funny work. As it turns out my suspicion was right—for the most part.

Copyright © 2003 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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