Scary Movie 4 Review
Is there a better example of movie marketing power than the Scary Movie series? Every single entry has been resoundingly mediocre and yet the trailers always manage to convince us that the next episode will be side-splittingly funny. The trailer for Scary Movie 4 is the best yet. It features Anna Faris doing Sarah Michelle Gellar in The Grudge, Leslie Nielsen doing George W Bush in Fahrenheit 9/11 and Craig Bierko doing Tom Cruise in War Of The Worlds (and on Oprah!), with some amusing stabs at Saw and The Village thrown in for good measure.
And that just about sums up the film as well: like its predecessors, it's a ninety-minute compilation of sketches, most of them based on scenes from the films listed above. Some are funny, some raise a smile, many fall flat. Predictably, the big laughs are in the trailer. If you've seen that, you're not going to do much more than chuckle at the film. Still, that's more than anyone did at Date Movie. Unlike that atrocity, Scary Movie 4 was at least made by people with talent.
The director is David Zucker, who took over the franchise from Keenen Ivory Wayans after Scary Movie 2. Zucker is one of the creators of the movie parody genre. Back in the 1970s, he co-wrote The Kentucky Fried Movie along with Jim Abrahams (who co-wrote this) and his brother Jerry Zucker. That contained a groundbreaking and still hilarious satire of Enter The Dragon. The so-called "Z.A.Z." boys took the idea and ran with it, making Airplane!, The Naked Gun and my personal favourite, Top Secret!, which imagined what an Elvis Presley spy movie might be like.
Scary Movie 4 has very little of the inspired comic genius of those classics but Zucker remains a gifted comedy director - when there's a laugh to be had, he nails it. He's also cast a lot of funny actors, including Craig Bierko, Anthony Anderson and Bill Pullman. They help make the weaker material bearable. It's a shame some of the actors are wasted. Leslie Nielsien playing Bush is such a great idea, it's a crime that so little is done with it.
Funniest of all is Anna Faris. Zucker can't claim credit for casting her - she's been with the franchise from the beginning - but he had the sense to keep her on board. With every film I see Faris in, I like her more and more. I loved her Britney impersonation in Lost In Translation and her Ashlee Simpson in Just Friends - she was the only thing worth watching in that one - and she had a wonderful scene in Brokeback Mountain as a chatty socialite. In Scary Movie 4, she gets laughs out of lines as obvious as "I've taken balls to the face before" just because of the breathy way she says them.
I'm going to finish this review by decisively sitting on the fence. The film's okay. Just about. If you don't want to see it, I won't try to persuade you. If you do, I won't try to talk you out of it. The Scary Movie series is review-proof anyway. That brilliant marketing campaign has already resulted in an opening day gross of nearly $20 million, a figure that wouldn't shame a major summer blockbuster. There will be more Scary Movies. Theoretically this series could go on as long as there are horror films to parody. What are the odds that David Zucker is already down in his basement with DVDs of Hostel and Final Destination 3 and a notepad?