Anna Faris in Scary Movie 4.
Scary Movie 4 might not be the funniest or most original in the series, but compared to movies like the recent Date Movie, which tried to make use of the same sort of humor, it's a welcome change. Director David Zucker (Airplane!, Naked Gun, Top Secret), while no longer at the top of his game, still manages to wring enough laughs out of the aging concept to make it worth the price of admission.
Like Scary Movie 3, this installment is rated PG-13. The first two films in the series (directed by and starring the Wayans' brothers) were rated R and as such were allowed more of an edge. This restrains some of the more outrageous comic moments and removes most the sexual humor and true gross-out moments that were the hallmark of the first two films. Where they used to aim at juvenile humor, now they're aimed straight at juveniles.
Anna Faris and Regina Hall reprise their characters from the first three movies. Faris is the irrepressably chirpy Cindy Campbell. Her character has moved on from being a satire of Neve Campbell's character from Scream and begins this movie spoofing Sarah Michelle Gellar's character from The Grudge. Although Charlie Sheen, the male lead from the last installment makes a cameo appearance at the beginning of the film, it is Craig Bierko who stars as rip-off of Tom Cruise's character from The War of the Worlds. Hall's role is much reduced this time around and doesn't appear until halfway, although ultimately it is her questionable sexual past that saves the world from destruction.
The method for these sorts of movies has always been to throw as many jokes on the screen at a time in the hopes that at least some will stick. And while more fall flat than in the old days, there are just enough good ones to keep you chuckling and the occasional laugh out loud ones as well. Leslie Nielson's portrayal of the dimwitted President proves once again why he is tailor made for these sorts of movies and is good for several laughs.
Along with rapid fire jokes, the other requirement is to include references to other movies and pop culture. While it is War of the Worlds that is the central thrust of the plot, along the way a host of other movies are also spoofed. From the obvious (Brokeback Mountain), to the more obscure (The Village (did enough people see this movie to get the jokes?)) and also manages to touch on Saw and even Fahrenheit 9/11.
Clearly the laughs here are cheap, but sometimes that's not a bad thing. Cheap laughs are better than no laughs at all.
Anna Faris in Scary Movie 4.
Other than Leslie Nielsen, as President Harris, there were very few laughs to be found. His nude appearance at the UN and this line, "I never did like kids. Remind me to sign that abortion bill." are the only points at which I laughed at this movie. Okay, Carmen Electra's bathroom scene did put a smile on my face, but fart jokes always work. The parody scene from Brokeback Mountain was good for a chuckle. Two cowboys are lying in a tent back-to-back and one reaches over in front of the other's crotch and says, "Relax, I'm just getting some nuts." He then grabs a bag of cashews.
So there are some laughs to be found here but it assumes that you have seen all of the movies in question. I never saw The Grudge and thus didn't get any of the jokes pertaining to it. The Village sequence was almost good. Brenda's street sassy slut coming into contact with the conservative villagers could have been played for more laughs. Instead they give us crotch hitting jokes and a gay wedding.
Just because this is a parody movie does not mean that the intelligence level has to be so low. Charlie Sheen's viagara joke seemed stale to me but two old ladies in the same theater laughed. As Scott wrote, you may not like all of the jokes but at least one or two will put a smile on your face.
Photos © Copyright The Weinstein Company LLC (2006)