Scary Movie 4


Anna Faris as Cindy Campbell
Craig Bierko as Tom Ryan
Leslie Nielsen as President Harris
Regina Hall as Brenda Meeks
Anthony Anderson as Mahalik
DeRay Davis as Marvin
Conchita Campbell as Rachel Ryan
Beau Mirchoff as Robbie
Chris Elliot as Ezekiel
Carmen Electra as Holly
Debra Wilson as Oprah Winfrey
Kevin Hart as C. J.
Dr. Phillip C. McGraw as Himself/Prisoner
Shaquille O’Neal as Himself/Prisoner
Michael Madsen
Bill Pullman
Henry Mah as Mr. Koji
Garrett Masuda as Ghost Boy
Link Baker as Lucky Puppet
Simon Rex as George
John Reardon as Jeremiah
Charlie Sheen as Tom Logan
Rorelee Tio as Yoko
Allison Warren as Polish Delegate
Chris Williams as Marcus
Dale Wolfe as Hang Gliding Man
Michelle Grigor as Spit Take Kid #4

Directed by David Zucker

Although it often gets bogged down by gross-out bathroom humor and dumb physical comedy, the zany send-ups make it blatantly obvious how worthy of being mocked the original source material is.

Cindy Campbell (Anna Faris) is trying to get over the loss of her husband George by taking a new job as a live-in caretaker. She soon learns that the house she’s staying at is haunted by a vengeful ghost, and the bonus of having hunky Tom Ryan (Craig Bierko) living next door is counterbalanced by the fact that all of humanity is about to get wiped out by aliens. What’s a girl to do?

What Worked:
By this time, you should already know the “Scary Movie” drill after the three previous movies: take a few of the biggest blockbuster movies of the last few years, throw out all the rules of logic or taste, and go to town making fun of them.

Director David Zucker of “Airplane!” and “Police Squad” fame certainly has found a Renaissance since being brought on board to revive the “Scary Movie” franchise after the disappointing sequel, appropriately dubbed “Scary Movie 2.” This time around, he has even better source material to work with, including Steven Spielberg’s “War of the Worlds” and actual scary movie hits like “The Grudge” and “Saw.” (They are even a few deathtrap gags influenced by “Saw II” that are even more clever and well thought out than the originals.)

After an opening from the latter with Shaquille O’Neal and Dr. Phil chained up in a basement death trap, the movie follows a plot that ably creates a mash-up of “War of the Worlds” and “The Grudge” with a few brief side trips into other territory. For the third time, M. Night Shyamalan gets the “Scary Movie” treatment with a spoof of “The Village” which mainly relies on Chris Elliot playing a town idiot that’s even dumber than the one played by Adrian Brody. The spoofs seem to work better last time, maybe because a lot of the source material is so ludicrous that it’s to mock them just by playing them straight.

Anna Faris is even better her fourth time around, having gotten to the point where she has enough of a sense of comic timing to make even the dumbest gag work better with her reaction. Faris makes you realize how few really funny ladies there are in movies these days. Trying to keep up with her, Craig Bierko (“Cinderella Man”) hits one out of the park as a Tom Cruise knock-off, much like Simon Rex did in the previous movie. The romance between the two of them is kind of sweet, and it helps to pull together one of the stronger plots put together for a “Scary Movie.” It gets even funnier in the epilogue when Tom goes on the Oprah Show–played by Mad TV’s Debra Wilson–to talk about his new love. Although a lot of it was seen in the commercials, it’s even funnier in its extended form.

Likewise, Leslie Nielsen ups the ante for his second go-round as the President of the United States, telling ethnic jokes at “The Un” before unleashing an alien death ray that acts as a updated version of the “Naked Gun.” He also has a very funny scene in a classroom, which sends up the famed Bush scene from Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11,” both scenes showing that Nielsen is still at the top of his form after starring in many of Zucker’s films.

Easily the most welcome return is Anthony Anderson as the dreadlocked Mahalik, back with his talkative buddy Marvin, played by DeRay Davis. After a bit of banter about zombies, they get a bunch of easy laughs at the expense of “Brokeback Mountain.” (You have to assume that this stuff was added later, because there’s no way they could have known when production began that it would become such a huge phenomenon.)

The “Grudge” spoof offers some of the best laughs thanks to a few of the smaller roles including a very funny Henry Mah as Cindy’s boss; Garrett Masuda acting even creepier than the original “Grudge” kid; and Rorelee Tio gets put to all sorts of hilarious uses as the jawless Yoko. Also notable is Conchita Campbell, who NAILS Dakota Fanning’s irritating high-pitched squeal.

One of the funniest bits, though, is a spoof of “Million Dollar Baby” with Mike Tyson getting in on the action with a bit of self-deprecating humor that turns it into one of the few send-ups that gets funnier as it goes along.

Zucker is especially good with the more subtle visual humor that sneaks into every scene, but you have to be impressed with his ability to create some of the big budget visuals from “War of the Worlds,” probably at a fraction of the cost.

What Didn’t Work:
Although there are a lot of funny gags, there’s way too much bad physical humor–people getting hit in the head repeatedly for laughs–and even more gross-out bathroom humor, which really takes away from the sharp verbal and visual satire. It doesn’t take long for this type of comedy to get played-out and get tedious, with the lowest point being Carmen Electra having a noisy bowel movement trying to get laughs. It’s a shame that all of the more clever bits tend to get bogged down with obvious laughs included to try to reach the brainless masses.

If you’re a child, an old person or disabled, you’re not going to get through a “Scary Movie” unscathed, because just as in the last movie, they’re basically used as fodder for the physical humor, getting beaten up at every possible turn.

A lot of the funniest gags are given away in the commercials and trailer, and they aren’t nearly funny when you’re expecting them.

Enough with the Michael Jackson jokes already! It was funny in “Scary Movie 3,” now it’s just blatant.

There’s no explanation how Regina Hall’s character Brenda Meeks is back after being killed in the previous movie, but most of the humor surrounding her character involves her basically being a slut, which is kind of a waste. Michael Madsen (“Kill Bill”) is also pretty much wasted playing the Tim Robbins character from “War of the Worlds.”

It’s a bit confusing when Bill Pullman shows up in the spoof of “The Village” after actually appearing in “The Grudge.” His character from that movie is played by Charlie Sheen in an only mildly amusing opening scene that features a cameo by Hugh Hefner’s three blonde girlfriends.

The Bottom Line:
If you laughed at the dumb jokes in the first three “Scary Movies” you’re bound to find just as many or more easy laughs in the follow-up. In some ways, this is even better than “Scary Movie 3″… but is that really saying very much? Needless to say, Hollywood should deliver enough bad movies in the next few years to guarantee that David Zucker’s dumb comedy legacy will never end.