Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Scary Movie 4: Now with 35% MORE Funny!

Though it opened to slightly smaller box office than its predecessor ($40.2 million to $48.1 million), there can be no disputing that Scary Movie 4 is the best in the series. Well unless Scary Movie 2 — which I never saw — is really awesome. Which I tend to doubt. (Prove me wrong Wayans Brothers fans! Prove! Me! Wrong!)

If the Scary Movie series ever made any attempts at maintaining a coherent plot, those days a long gone. Which is fine. I don't go to a Scary Movie for gripping story or compelling characters. I go to see Charlie Sheen overdose on Viagra and hit himself in the face with his own enormous erection.

By this scale, Scary Movie 4 is a tremendous success.

Granted, Scary Movie 4 is a far cry from director David Zucker's last spoof series, The Naked Gun, which maintained a surprising level of comedy quality throughout, and even had some characters, particularly Leslie Nielsen's Lt. Frank Drebin and Priscilla Presley's Jane Spencer, you came to really care about. They were goofy and vulgar and stupid, but lovable too.

In Scary Movie 4, the characters' complete disposability is part of the joke. Sheen was the male lead of SM 3, and here is dispatched two scenes into the film (and by that point Shaquille O'Neal and Dr. Phil have both bitten the dust as well). Regina Hall, the only actor to appear in all four films along with fearless star Anna Faris, is killed in every film, only to reappear, miraculously alive, in the next sequel.

Perhaps this is Zucker's preference; after all, his first film with longtime collaborators Jim Abrahams and his brother Jerry was Kentucky Fried Movie, which is little more than a collection of film, commercial, and television parodies. ZAZ teams commentaries on Airplane!, The Naked Gun, and Top Secret! reveal that the only thing they care about is the joke. They describe how they preview all of their films and listen for the laughs: if things don't work, they get cut. If things move too slowly, they get cut.

All a ZAZ movie need be is funny (and feature writing contributions from Pat Proft) and Scary Movie 4 is funny, funnier than the uneven Scary Movie 3, and certainly funnier than anything the Zucks have made since the last Naked Gun (Sorry, BASEketball fans). The funniest parody isn't even of a horror film, it's a dream sequence that crosses Million Dollar Baby with the Mike Tyson ear-biting incident and builds to a classic ZAZ riff, where one punch leads to a chain reaction whereupon everyone in the entire boxing arena breaks their neck.

The Scary Movie series could conceivably last as long as movies do. At this point they're barely even about horror movies at all, just the stupidest popular culture has to offer in all genres, boiled down into digest form, with Leslie Nielsen as the President of the United States — a frighteningly accurate casting choice, if you ask me.


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