Scary Movie 4 Movie Review

Scary Movie 4 is inane, gross, ridiculous, and pretty stupid. It also made me laugh more than once. That's evidently becoming the theme of slapstick spoof shtick (or at least the endless stream of Scary Movies), that they head straight for the lowest common denominator but amid all of the diarrhea jokes and people getting beaned in the face with flying objects, they hit upon something genuinely witty, almost by accident.

The dumb jokes are, of course, framed in send-ups of other box office hits from the last couple of years - Anna Faris's spectacularly inept and oblivious Cindy Campbell, who appeared in all the previous films, moves into the house from The Grudge, next door to Tom Cruise's - oh, sorry, Tom Ryan's - house from War of the Worlds. The plot, such as it is, somewhat follows the Worlds story, but is really a cobbled-together excuse to veer from spoof to spoof like a sketch comedy, and the dialogue, such as it is, is almost entirely forgettable. Actually, it's largely a time killer, something for the actors to do while carefully oblivious to the antics around them and not really meant to be heard over the guffaws of the audience.

Quite probably, the only reason there is any (dubious) life in the Scary Movie franchise is because, for the third installment, there was a changing of the guard and veteran spoofster David Zucker came in to direct. Zucker is here again, along with screenwriters Craig Mazin (who wrote #3) and legendary Zucker collaborator Jim Abrahams. But even with the pedigree, this film offers fewer genuine laughs than re-watching Airplane! for perhaps the zillionth time. The possible exception is, of course, those who are boisterously hopped up on something mind-altering, which is likely the target audience, but even they could do to wait for video.

For the rest of us, the amusing moments are significantly fewer, as the film too easily settles for groans when it runs out of ways to get genuine laughs. It's a case of most of the good stuff appearing in the barrage of commercials and trailers, so the punchlines are old hat by the time they show up in the film. It's also probably a good thing that the best part of the movie -- a ridiculous mockery of Tom Cruise's infamous Oprah appearance -- comes just before the closing credits, because anything following after would have been a disappointment.

A lot of the fun comes from seeing what movies - Saw, The Village - will get the skewer next. It also helps that the leads are surprisingly adept at wide-eyed cluelessness, Faris no doubt having perfected it in the earlier films and Craig Bierko nailing Tom Ryan as both cocky and completely idiotic. But it is hardly a semblance of acting, any more than the endless parade of cameos by musicians, actors, and assorted pop culture icons constitute a supporting cast. But a lot of the potential is completely wasted - Leslie Neilson's president avoids all but the barest satire and goes instead for numbskull buffoonery, as if any actual pointed wit would be fearful territory.

It's too bad that the state of spoof has been reduced to this, where a fat guy in chaps is the pinnacle of hilarity, but the real sad fact is that it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter that Scary Movie 4 is merely plumbing the shallow pool of scatological humor, gay jokes, and characters continually racking themselves, smacking into things, or getting whacked by something. This is, after all, the fourth one of these, so there are clearly some die-hard fans for whom there is no such thing as a poop gag taken too far and there can never, ever be too many Brokeback Mountain parodies.

It takes a parody village.


Scary Movie 4 Rating

" Grim "

Rating: PG-13, 2006


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