Judge Brett Cullum found Scary Movie 4 amusing, and that scares him more than anything else he could imagine.
Tom Ryan: [after hitting Cindy with a baseball] Oh, hey, I'm sorry!
Cindy Campbell: Oh, it's okay. I've taken balls to the face before.
The first Scary Movie had a brilliant tag line on the poster—"No mercy. No shame. No sequel." Hollywood is the land of false advertising and empty promises, so now we have Scary Movie 4 before us. The Wayans brothers wisely bailed on the franchise after Scary Movie 2, but somehow this series keeps on trucking. Why? The project cost fifty million to make, and made forty of that back in its opening weekend in the United States. Something tells me a Scary Movie 5 is just around the corner. Now I'm scared.
Facts of the Case
It's a mash-up plot that takes The Grudge and marries it to War of the Worlds with plenty of room for other spoofs along the way. Cindy Campbell returns as a home health provider who is assigned a haunted Japanese style house with an old catatonic woman to care for (a small role for comedy legend Cloris Leachman, High Anxiety). Meanwhile, next door Tom Ryan has just been left his kids who he does not know well by his harpy ex-wife. Before you can say "Martians!," alien invaders attack the planet sending everyone running for their lives. Who is behind this nefarious plot? Will the answers be found in The Village, or does Cindy's past as a Million Dollar Baby lady boxer hold the key? And why the heck is King Kong on the cover when the big ape never shows up? And how the hell does Saw and Fahrenheit 9/11 end up in this thing? Ah, don't ask. Best to sit back with a bowl of popcorn, and laugh while you still can.
I grow weary of these Scary Movies, but they are fun in a criminal totally mindless way. I'm no killjoy, and I admit Scary Movie 4 entertained me for the entire running time. It was nowhere near as jaw dropping or funny as the original, but it did offer some funny moments built around all the ridiculous Japanese horror movies and Spielberg's latest Tom Cruise science fiction blockbuster. And let's face it, the targets deserve to have the piss taken out of them: Brokeback Mountain, Saw,The Grudge, War of the Worlds, The Village, Fahrenheit 9/11, Million Dollar Baby, Dr. Phil, Oprah, iPods, and most deserving—Tom "mother humping couch jumper" Cruise.
Both Scary Movie 3 and this latest installment Scary Movie 4 are directed by David Zucker, who is most notable for Airplane. He brings with him many of the writers and production talent he has worked with since the start, and the film does feel like it could belong in that franchise as well. We even get Leslie Nielsen from the Airplane and Naked Gun movies appearing here as the President of the United States. He's naked in this one, putting the "scary" back in to the title. Zucker's style is wall-to-wall gags which get thrown at the audience at a merciless pace until something makes you laugh. None of the jokes are remotely highbrow, and we mainly get fart and slapstick humor for eighty minutes.
Anna Faris and Regina Hall return as the two female leads from all the films in the Scary Movie series. Faris is deadpan funny in all the right ways, and she does a brilliant job of selling any joke thrown in her path. Regina Hall is simply hysterical with her ghetto fabulous "I'm a ho!" persona intact and ready for action. Craig Bierko (Cinderella Man) gets the plum Tom Cruise role as the hapless dad thrown together with his remote kids in the wake of an alien invasion. Other cameos and small roles are filled out by: Carmen Electra (who took on the Drew Barrymore role in Scary Movie), Dr. Phil Mcgraw, Shaquille O'Neill, Chingy, Bill Pullman (Independence Day), Michael Madsen (Sin City), Simon Rex (Scary Movie 3), Molly (Superstar) Shannon, Lil Jon, Young BloodZ, Fabolous, Dave Attell, Charlie Sheen (Major League), and an all too convincing Michael Jackson impersonator (also seen in Scary Movie 3).
The DVD looks superb. This is the first Scary Movie to be shot in a digital format, so no problems with the anamorphic transfer. It replicates colors well, and looks clear as a bell. Audio comes in surround mode, and the fields are quite busy given the alien invasion scenario. You want extras? You got plenty to choose from. Up front and center is a group commentary featuring the director and his comedy team. It's a great track with good information and (gasp!) some humility about bits they think don't work. Then there are a collection of bloopers as well as fifteen deleted or extended sequences with commentary as well. There are interviews with Zucker and the cast on the film, a look at the special effects process, and some other fluffy featurettes about rappers all of which are at least entertaining. There's a lot to recommend as far as the DVD goes.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Scary Movie 4 is not a good film, nor is it inventive. It's a series of skits spoofing movies and recent media events, and I wonder how much replay value it will have. If you buy the DVD, how many times can you watch this thing before you stop laughing and start groaning? If you've seen the trailer you've seen the best jokes in the film. Zucker is good at slapstick and physical humor, but he's not smart enough to pull off a Simpsons or South Park element of satire. Check out the Oprah sequence where everything heads to a physical climax rather than really honing in on the nuttiness that is Mr. Cruise and Ms. Winfrey. In more capable hands this could be brilliant stuff, but as it is it is merely charming buffoonery.
The box proclaims "Unrated & Uncensored" with "over two hours of extras." Don't be fooled. The theatrical cut was PG-13, and the extra sequences barely kick Scary Movie 4 into light R-rated territory. A cut clip includes the sight of a gerbil which merely amounts to a gross gay joke. The two hours of extra film is a misnomer as well, since we get half an hour of extended scenes (they just run longer) and seven minutes of bloopers. None of the features are in-depth, and the only way you can claim over two hours is if you count the commentary in its entirety. When will they stop all this "hype"-vertising over a few extra seconds and some cut scenes?
Funny and not very deep, Scary Movie 4 is simply more of the same from a franchise that entertains and does little else. It certainly has laughs, and Anna Faris and Regina Hall keep me coming back again and again. I believe this one is better than Scary Movie 3, but only slightly so. I miss the Wayans brothers, but they're too busy working on more noble projects like White Chicks. There will be a Scary Movie 5, and I'll be there to review it begrudgingly. At least it's fun, and sometimes that is enough to justify an hour and a half of your life.
Guilty of being another spoofy skit, Scary Movie 4 has more misfires than hits. Yet when it works, it's pretty funny. It's worth a look. You'll laugh, and then hate yourself for it.
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