|Scary Movie 4 (2006)
Starring: Anna Faris, Regina Hall, Craig Bierko, Simon Rex, Anthony Anderson, Chris Elliott, Carmen Electra, Cloris Leachman, Michael Madsen, Molly Shannon, Leslie Nielsen
Director: David Zucker
With the first three “Scary Movie” films each having scored significant box office success, you’d have to have been pretty naïve to presume that there wouldn’t be a fourth one at some point. And, therefore, submitted for your approval is “Scary Movie 4,” which treads approximately the same lowbrow comedy water as its predecessors.
What started as a way of parodying the “Scream” films (themselves ostensibly a parody of the horror genre to begin with) has evolved into a franchise which takes shots at pretty much any movie it wants, from “Million Dollar Baby” to “Brokeback Mountain.” Unfortunately, everyone and their brother have already had their fun at the latter film’s expense, and the former…well, let’s just say that the “Brokeback Mountain” jokes are at least vaguely funny. Of course, horror films continue to be satirized, including the “Saw” films, “The Grudge,” and “The Village,” but the sci-fi action of “War of the Worlds” is worked into the proceedings as well.
So how confident are we that this is truly a lowbrow comedy? Well, examining our list of criteria, we have check marks next to “poop jokes,” “puke jokes,” “fart jokes,” and “Carmen Electra,” and in the “easy targets” column, we’ve circled both “Viagra” and “Michael Jackson.” You make the call.
The fact that “Scary Movie 4,” like its predecessor, is directed by David Zucker is rather depressing, given that Zucker helmed classics in the parody genre, including “Top Secret,” two of the three “Naked Gun” films, and the granddaddy of them all, “Airplane!” At the very least, it’s presumably Zucker’s presence that has resulted in Leslie Nielsen coming aboard as President Harris, but, while Nielsen does score a few laughs (including one which mocks George Bush’s whereabouts when he learned of the 9/11 attacks, which is as close to political comedy as this series gets), seeing him onscreen makes one long to see further adventures of Frank Drebin. It’s equally depressing to see Cloris Leachman here, particularly given her big scene, which involves her getting a sponge bath from perennial “Scary Movie” lead Anna Faris…except that – ho, ho! – the sponge is accidentally being dipped into a urine-filled bedpan. Poor, poor Frau Blücher.
Craig Bierko’s comedic performance as Tom Ryan – based not very loosely at all on Tom Cruise’s character in “War of the Worlds” – is clearly inspired by Nielsen’s past work; on more than one occasion, he moves from gag to gag by simply offering a straight-faced, “Well.” (This reaction is generally funnier than the joke that preceded it.) Dave Atell (Comedy Central’s “Insomniac”) makes a funny cameo, and it’s also occasionally amusing to see Bill Pullman participating in the proceedings, since he was in one of the films that’s roundly parodied here (“The Grudge”), but he isn’t given much to work with.
“Scary Movie 4” is woefully dumb or gross for the sake of grossness far more often than it is legitimately funny. It’s a classic case of the film’s trailer showing every joke that Standards and Practices will allow them to screen on network TV…and when the only remaining laugh-out-loud moment remaining in the film involves Dr. Phil loudly bellowing an obscenity, you know you’re in trouble.
What’s that? You say the film brought in $41 million on its opening weekend? Well, Mr. Editor, go ahead and pencil in that someone’s going to have to review “Scary Movie 5” for sometime in 2008. Just don’t put my name next to it.
The special features that make up the unrated DVD release of “Scary Movie 4” may seem like a lot, but there’s hardly enough here to keep you occupied during your lunch break. Aside from the semi-interesting audio commentary with director David Zucker, producer Robert Weiss and writer Craig Mazin, the rest of the extras add up to only about 45 minutes in length, including fifteen deleted/extended scenes, a short series of interviews featuring cast reactions to Zucker’s directorial style (“The Man Behind the Laugh”), a visual effects featurette, and a seven-minute gag reel that prominently displays Anthony Anderson playing gay chicken with his onscreen pal. All silly stuff, but not must-see.