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Sunday, April 16, 2006

Scary Movie 4

This weekend I was at the Essex Cinemas chatting with some of my favorite concession queens and recalled the wise advice I received from my mother on her deathbed: “Floss daily, don’t ever date a man who keeps a five pound jar of Vaseline on his nightstand, never wear edible panties near a bee hive on a hot day, and lastly, but most importantly, beware of movie sequels that have numbers higher than 3.” Now, I’ve done my best to honor her advice, but I still felt compelled to check out Scary Movie 4 despite my mama’s warning.

For those not in the know, the Scary Movies aren’t really scary. They are basically a patchwork of bad jokes and silly sketches stitched together with a minimal plot that spoofs real scary movies to give us an end product that is something between the best of Airplane and the worst of Saturday Night Live.

Scary Movie 4 takes the most disparate of sources yet to weave its’ story and that alone is quite entertaining. Try putting The Grudge, The War of the Worlds, Million Dollar Baby, Brokeback Mountain, The Village, and Saw in a blender and coming up with an actual story that incorporates scenes from all of the above in a way that makes some kind of sense and you’ve got yourself a Scary Movie 4. The only problem is that none of these films was the least bit funny, well intentionally funny anyway, and since Scary Movie 4 is supposed to be a comedy the biggest problem hangs in how well the writers inject their brand of humor.

That humor is about as base as it can be. Fart jokes and poop jokes and Viagra jokes abound. This is not a high-brow affair, but then it isn’t intended to be. None of its’ predecessors hit the $100 million sales mark by bringing high culture to the masses. Still, it is funny, and apparently Hollywood thinks so too because it seems like half the movie star community makes cameos throughout the film.

It starts like Saw with two people are chained in a dirty, abandoned underground restroom; their only escape is to saw off one of their own feet to free themselves from the chains that hold them. The twist here is that the two people facing this horrible plight are Shaquille O’Neal and Dr. Phil. Shaq, known for his long-standing feud in real life with Kobe Bryant, is sure that Kobe is behind this. Dr. Phil meanwhile breaks down in tears and swears up a storm. It’s not exactly as we know them in reality.

From the filthy loo the film cuts (ha! “cuts”) to Cindy Campbell, played by Scary Movie 1, 2, and 3 alum Anna Faris who visits old friend Tom Logan (Charlie Sheen, tv’s Two and a Half Men; Scary Movie 3) just as he is recreating a moment shot almost scene-for-scene from The Grudge. Moody and despondent, Logan tries to commit suicide by overdosing on a certain medication, resulting in a stiff penalty he did not expect, a very stiff penalty indeed.

From there Cindy goes job-hunting and ends up as a home health care aide for not-quite-comatose Cloris Leachman (Spanglish; Young Frankenstein), who lives in a haunted Japanese home that is conveniently located next to Tom Ryan’s New Jersey place. Tom (Craig Bierko,
Cinderella Man; Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star), a striking Tom Cruise look-alike, is having problems of his own. His kids hate him and aliens are attacking, evaporating everyone in their path. So while Cindy goes in search of the cause of the haunting, which she thinks can be found in a village out in the middle of nowhere, Tom is gathering the family together to flee the Tripod Army that is advancing on them. Cindy and Tom promise they’ll hold one another in their arms again one day soon. “Alive?” asks Cindy, just to make sure.

From here both leads wander off to individually lampoon other movies and meet various “guest stars” like Anthony Anderson, Michael Madsen, Carmen Electra, James Earl Jones, Molly Shannon, Kevin Hart, Leslie Nielson, and Chris Elliott.

Scary Movie 4 must have had a huge budget because it really does a remarkable job in recreating the sets from all of the source films perfectly, and director David Zucker (Scary Movie 3; Airplane) recreates the camera moves and angles with an almost reverence, showing a respect for the work of the original directors and craftspeople. It does make for a classy presentation in a show that doesn’t strive for class, and in some ways it is almost a distraction, which may be what he hoped ~ to distract us from the horribly old jokes that anyone past the tenth grade has heard, seen, or told before.

Still, Scary Movie 4 is not about innovation. It’s about the people and these people doing their best to embarrass themselves. Ask Carmen Electra. The least talented member of the Baywatch clan,
though definitely the second most buoyant (next to Pamela Anderson, of course) caps the film with the most personally humiliating career move(ment) ever. It’ll bowel you over, if you get my drift.

Scary Movie 4 is stinking up the Essex Cinemas with a lot of crappy jokes and a puddle or two of giggly fun. If you go, be sure and bring along your SAT scores in case you are stopped at the door and asked by the Intelligence Police if you really want to risk it, but hey, Larry the Cable Guy saw it twice and look how well he turned out.
Seriously, it's not going to win any awards (well, maybe "Film of the Year" from the United Toilet Tissue Makers Union) but if you can go in not expecting Shakespeare you'll have a gas seeing it.

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