At The Picture Show
The magic is gone
Even with Zucker and Abrahams aboard, 'Scary Movie 4' falls flat
Scary Movie 4
Director: David Zucker
Screenplay: Jim Abrahams and Craig Mazin
Starring: Anna Faris, Craig Bierko, Leslie Nielsen, Bill Pullman, Regina Hall,
Carmen Electra, Conchita Campbell, Dr. Phil and Shaquille O'Neal
Rated PG-13 / 1 hour, 23 minutes
Opened April 21, 2006
(out of four)
There was a time when David Zucker and Jim Abrahams were kings of the
comedy world . . . or at least of the subgenre that they basically created: the spoof
movie, a type that took off from films like "Blazing Saddles" and took comedy in
a whole new direction.
From the masterful "Airplane!" to "Top Secret!" to the hysterical and
underappreciated "Naked Gun" series, they knew how to satirize other movies
with more intelligence and verve than anybody. In fact, for a while, they were the
only ones who knew how to do it.
Come to think of it, they were just about the only ones who did it. And then
came the bad imitators - a lot of them - who flooded the market with bad parody
after bad parody, unintentionally turning the entire genre into a parody of itself. It
was counter-productivity at its worst. It's not just that Zucker and Abrahams
ceased to be relevant, but that movies passed their inventions. In this day and age
when sketch comedy and cable TV skewer pop culture with all-too-much
regularity, and where we can all find dozens of celebrity spoofs with a quick
search of the Internet, the parody movie just doesn't seem to have a place
Unfortunately, the extremely talented
tandem of Zucker and Abrahams still hasn't moved on over the past three decades.
Never has that been more apparent than in "Scary Movie 4," the fourth and
hopefully final installment of the franchise started by those adorable Wayans
Zucker was brought on last time to direct "Scary Movie 3," and while that
one had a few nice wrinkles, it was a failure. He has brought Abrahams along this
time, and the trend continues. This genre is about as dead as they get.
While this team's previous films brilliantly lampooned the mechanics of
movies themselves, more recent efforts like this one resort simply to throwing as
many pop-culture references on the screen as possible. This is completely
unsuccessful not only because such a strategy is cheap and obvious, but because,
by the time the movie hits theatres, most of these references were old news six
months ago - or more.
Let me give you an example: "Scary Movie 4" makes fun of Mike Tyson's
infamous ear-biting incident. This happened NINE YEARS AGO. Count `em -
nine. It's not funny anymore. Like most of the rest of the movie, the Tyson scene
was staggeringly unoriginal. The inspired magic that once came up with such lines
as "Joey . . . do you like movies about gladiators?" is, sadly, gone. Turn out the
While using many plot elements from
low-rent horror flicks like "The Grudge" and "Saw," "Scary Movie 4" takes
Steven Spielberg's "War of the Worlds" as its basic template - with plenty of "The
Village" thrown in as well.
This is not a bad idea in and of itself - the latter two are among the worst
artistic disasters I've ever seen, and the deep-seeded passions with which I hate
the two films will never be tamed. That said, Zucker and Abrahams (along with
co-writer Craig Mazin) completely miss the mark, opting for unfunny running
gags and neglecting all that made both films so ripe for satire. There is so much
that could be done, and they just blew it.
Instead, the filmmakers waste their time - and ours - with a constant
barrage of throwaway references that are as easily written as they are forgotten.
We are subjected to a flurry of pop-culture spoofs - Tom Cruise on "Oprah," gay
cowboys, iPods, the president reading books to schoolchildren, etc. But haven't
these jokes already been done to death? Didn't they wear out their welcome after a
To put it simply, any one of us could have written this movie.
There are a few nice touches - such as when Cindy (Anna Faris) and that
kid from "The Grudge" engage in a conversation in "Japanese" that consists solely
of Japanese brand names ("Sony Toshiba Mitsubishi Sanyo…") - but the film is
The problem is, all the jokes we find
here are already yesterday's news. Yes, the Tom Cruise thing is funny - but
anyone with access to the information superhighway has already seen that kind of
spoof already, and it was funnier last summer. That, coupled with sketch comedy
TV and the number of spoof movies being produced these days ("Date Movie"
was just two months ago), renders "Scary Movie 4" completely obsolete. Not to
mention unintelligent and painfully unfunny.
Where is the comic genius that brought us jive talk, O.J.'s giant afro,
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar dressed up like an airline pilot . . . and, of course, the
legendary "Don't call me Shirley" exchange? Perhaps it's where it belongs - in the
past, never to be forgotten but bearing no relevance in the 21st Century. It has been
replaced by banal, pointless jokes and stale retreads of old-fashioned satire. The
parody genre was good while it lasted, I guess, but those days are clearly over . . .
Oveur, over. Roger, Roger. What's our vector, Victor? Over!
Read more by Chris Bellamy