SCARY MOVIE 4
Director: David Zucker
Cast: Anna Faris, Craig Bierko, Regina Hall, Leslie Nielsen, Bill Pullman
MPAA Rating: (for for crude and sexual humor throughout, some comic violence and language)
Running Time: 1:23
Release Date: 4/14/06
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Review by Mark Dujsik
With the huge influx of horror films in the past few years—the majority of them uninspired, disgusting, or just downright lame—one would think the genre in prime position for parody. If, as I believe, it is, it would take a lot to garner that from Scary Movie 4, the tired new installment in a series that was pretty much finished from the start. I have an odd relationship with the Scary Movie series. The first was an amusing attempt to parody Scream, which is in itself an unsuccessful satire of the horror genre. The second was simply pointless and started the trend of lampooning films outside of the titular genre. The first two movies were the creation of three of the Wayans brothers (Keenen Ivory, Shawn, and Marlon), and the third and more successful outing switched hands to veteran spoof director David Zucker. Scary Movie 4 is also directed by Zucker, and it had better be the series' pained death rattle. It's not that I didn't laugh in spells of the movie, it's just that the tone of said laughter was more out of sympathy than amusement. There's possibly nothing sadder in the world of cinema than a comedy trying this hard for laughs.
Once again, there's actually a plot here to go through, so hold tight. The movie opens with Shaquille O'Neal and Dr. Phil trapped in a worn out bathroom like the one in Saw. The focus of the scene is how bad O'Neal is at free throws, and if that joke's not an antique, I don't know what is. Cut to Charlie Sheen's cameo, in which he jumps to his death from his apartment window while Cindy Campbell (Anna Faris) watches on. Cindy takes on a job as a caretaker for an old woman in a creepy house complete with the ghost of a young boy. Next door, Tom Ryan (Craig Bierko) just finished working at the docks and is about to watch his kids for the weekend. He accidentally pegs Cindy with a baseball, and there's an attraction. Cindy's a bit timid about it after her previous husband died in a boxing match (a la Million Dollar Baby), and Mike Tyson biting off someone's ear is so dated it's still not funny. Meanwhile there's a weird machine that looks like an iPod but has the option to destroy humanity under the '80s mix playlist (I told you those things are a tool of the devil or at least one of his minions).
Maybe I'm hoping this is the last one because I hate having to give this complicated a plot summary for something so utterly simplistic. Or maybe the movie still just sucks. Apparently only four horror movies were made between 2003 and 2005. The Grudge. Saw. The Village. And War of the Worlds? I suppose the last one's not quite as bad as some of the samplings in the last installment, but considering how many hours I wasted on the fodder that's been churned out in this genre over the past few years, this seems a pretty incomplete list. If the Million Dollar Baby parody seems odd, wait until you catch a glimpse at the movie's oh-so trendy (because evidently it's trendy to be homophobic) spoof of Brokeback Mountain. To say this is the least funny Brokeback parody to date is to be kind and, at the same time, saying something, because, let's face it, with the exception of "Brokeback to the Future," none of them are that funny to begin with. It's the easy joke, though, and why kill yourself over material like this?
No strain is made here, and whatever genre-based setup is approached usually ends in an easy punch line, typically along the lines of slapstick or scatological humor. Fairly early on it's easy to this entire line of jokes isn't going to work when a crateful of monkeys escape. If you manage to mess up the humor of monkeys causing havoc, it's just time to go home. Carmen Electra plays a version of the blind heroine in The Village, and that payoff is to have her mistakenly take a really loud number two in the back of a town meeting. The few laughs to genuinely have are from a few well placed one-liners, easily the funniest is Dr. Phil's observation about the result of his disappearing while talking to kids with abandonment issues. The only running gag that somewhat works is the version of Tom Cruise's character from War of the Worlds being a bad father, but it's also probably the only joke that is actually based on observation of the source material. Even so, you have to watch Leslie Nielsen suffer. If you thought any of those really bad parodies Nielsen made in the 1990s were the low point of his career, wait till you see his nude scene here.
When I think of all these outright comic misfires, I'm amazed the movie saves its worst for the end. After the plot is all said and done, Tom Ryan appears on Oprah (Debra Wilson), and guess what, he's in love. That entire Cruise ruckus was funny in and of itself, and once again, it's an old joke already. Simply by its existence, though, Scary Movie 4 is beating a dead horse.
Copyright © 2006 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.