Scary Movie 4
Directed by David Zucker. Starring Anna Faris, Regina Hall, Craig Bierko, Simon Rex, Anthony Anderson, Leslie Nielsen, Cloris Leachman. (2006, PG-13, 90 min.)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., April 21, 2006
Witnessing the malingering demise of a franchise can be an unnerving experience, but Scary Movie 4 is hardly scary, or, despite its premise, very humorous. It's such a weak collection of strung-together gags that it would barely have filled an episode of In Living Color, much less merit its current running time. Director Zucker, working with co-writers Jim Abrams and Craig Mazin, ought to know better than others how to spot the telltale signs of comic dissolution – Zucker helmed the original Airplane! and Naked Gun films – but you wouldn't know it from Scary Movie 4, which, like a particularly off-kilter issue of the post-William M. Gaines version of Mad magazine, seems adrift in an ocean of cheesy mimicry and bereft of any sort of thematic focus. "The Usual Gang of Idiots," indeed. What little plot there is concerns Faris' Cindy Campbell, whose new job caring for the homebound leads her to suspect her house is cursed, which, of course, leads to endless parodic takes on the current wave of J-Horror films coming out of Asia (Ju-On: The Grudge, Dark Water, et cetera), while boorish next-door neighbor Tom Ryan (Bierko) flees the alien hordes of War of the Worlds (and Apple computer products). Planted throughout, like defective comedy landmines that maim instead of kill, are satirical jabs at everything from Saw to Brokeback Mountain to Charlie Sheen's inexplicable love life. The single solid, genuinely funny gag in the film is, oddly, architectural: Although Campbell and Ryan's houses are apparently side by side, they're also apparently in Japan and Jersey City, respectively, a nifty bit of Dada that no one in the audience seems to notice. Much more enthusiastically received was the endless parade of (equally inexplicable) celebrity cameos, including Mike Tyson, Dr. Phil, Shaquille O'Neal, and, god help us, Oscar-winner Cloris Leachman, who really ought to make this her last picture show with the Zucker/Abrams team. She only gets bathed in urine, but we have to sit through the rest of the film, a torture so heinous it makes Nurse Ratched look positively divine by comparison. If comedy does indeed equal "tragedy plus time," then Zucker should have a bona fide classic on his hands in, oh, a century or so. In the present, however, Scary Movie 4 is so lazy it's downright boring, something not even a naked Leslie Nielsen (!) can salvage.