Scary Movie

Scary Movie is part of a genre that is very easy to review. There’s a simple litmus test for a spoof: is it funny? Do its gags work? The answer in this case is… sometimes. Scary Movie is a sporadically hilarious parody of teen horror movies that too frequently seems half-baked. While Scream was a subtle satire, acknowledging clich├ęs and changing conventions, this is outright mockery, irreverent and vulgar. When it works — and I mean really works — it can be a riot; unfortunately, that doesn’t happen nearly often enough.

I hesitate at the keyboard here, trying to figure out how I’m going to describe the plot. I’m giving up, because there’s really no plot to speak of. The film resembles a collection of vignettes making fun of various horror movie conventions more than it does a coherent story. The characters, predictably, are all teens played by actors in their 20’s and even 30’s (the film slyly makes note of this) who are being chased around by a serial killer in a Scream-type mask. Cheri Oteri plays Gail Hailstorm, a shot at Courtney Cox’s Gail Weathers character. Shawn Wayans and Marlon Wayans, brothers of director Keenan Ivory Wayans, also have big roles, playing the broadest of caricatures.

The unique thing about Scary Movie is the identity its distributor. Dimension Films, a subdivision of Miramax, is marketing the hell out of this one, even though it essentially lampoons most of its previous hits. Dimension’s own Scream trilogy and I Know What You Did Last Summer are Scary Movie‘s biggest targets and it’s refreshing to see a studio be so unself-conscious about its own brainchildren.

There’s been a lot of hoopla, also, about the amount of what the highbrow types like to refer to as “scatological humor.” I’ve seen numerous people comment that the movie should have been rated NC-17. Try as I might, I can’t get over my initial reaction to these statements: they’re ridiculous. Yeah, it’s crude. It’s not NC-17 crude. Many were called to action by the fact that they saw parents bring their small kids with them — something they wouldn’t have been able to do had the harsher rating been imposed. That’s the parents’ problem. The MPAA warns: “Rated R for strong crude sexual humor, language, drug use and violence.” One’s supposed to think before taking small kids to an R-rated movie; those who ignore the admonitions are on their own because there’s nothing, nothing here that warrants an NC-17.

That being said, most of the humor that generates laughs is not of the lewd variety. I found the scene where Carmen Electra, being chased by a knife-yielding madman, chooses to pick up a banana instead of a sword or a dagger and then proceeds to follow a road sign pointing to “death” rather than the one directing toward “safety” much funnier than when we see “Ms. Man,” an allegedly female gym teacher, with a set of droopy testicles hanging out of her short shorts. I didn’t find any of the racy content particularly objectionable — it’s just not all worth it.

Look, Airplane this isn’t. Hell, it’s not even Wrongfully Accused. But even if it’s not exactly a gutbuster, it’s diverting and entertaining, which may not qualify it for the “classics” section of your local video store, but for a fun, undemanding night at the movies, well… if you’ve already seen Chicken Run, then Scary Movie might be a choice to consider. But for God’s sake, hire a babysitter.

-- Eugene Novikov

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Screening Log

Snitch

Ric Roman Waugh, 2013

Score: C

Side Effects

Steven Soderbergh, 2013

Score: C+

10 Years

Jamie Linden, 2012

Score: B-

The Place Beyond the Pines

Derek Cianfrance, 2013

Score: B+

Warm Bodies

Jonathan Levine, 2013

Score: C

Beautiful Creatures

Richard LaGravanese, 2013

Score: B-

The Window

Ted Tetzlaff, 1949

Score: B+

The Chase

Arthur Ripley, 1946

Score: B

Street of Chance

Jack Hively, 1942

Score: C

The Taste of Money

Im Sang-Soo, 2013

Score: C+

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