To the devout fans of “Scary Movie” – rabid lovers of slapstick humor and the occasional pre-teen able to bribe the theater cashier with a Kit Kat for a ticket – the fourth addition to a line of watery parodies will likely be mildly satisfying. But unlike a chocolate delight, this is not a film to savor.
Using a tried and somewhat true formula, “Scary Movie 4” mocks blockbusters such as “War of the Worlds,” “The Village” and “The Grudge” as it follows the adventures of Cindy Campbell (Anna Faris, “Brokeback Mountain “) and Tom Ryan (Craig Bierko, “Cinderella Man”) in their attempt to save the world from a bunch of computer-generated aliens dubbed “Tr-iPods.” These cold machines delight in vaporizing people and leaving only their clothes behind. Who knew that nudist colonies had extraterrestrials on their side?
Aside from the abundance of convenient nudity jokes, the film excels at imitating its own legacy of stupendously bad cinema. Faithful to prior sequels, star cameos, crude humor and groan-inducing one-liners such as “We’ll build our own Tr-iPods. Ours will have four legs” are plentiful. Leslie Nielsen returns as a bumbling president who happens to be incapable of realizing his country is in chaos. Meanwhile, Shaquille O’Neal revives his quarrels with Kobe Bryant while ineptly making fun of his own paltry ability to shoot free throws. And if these vignettes aren’t compelling enough, the scene where Dr. Phil has a heart-to-heart with Shaq is sure to put anyone in therapy just to escape his abominable attempts at humor. If only he’d sawed off our ears instead of his foot.
The film relentlessly spews gag after gag at the audience on the supposition that, after watching a cloud fart lightning for the third time, it’s bound to be funny. Yet too often, physical humor – like when Tom shoots himself in the pants, for instance – misses the mark completely. Like a Looney Tunes cartoon brought to life, these painful scenes barely warrant a chuckle at best. At their worst, the film revels in using guns and other weapons as gleefully appealing tools of destruction.
Although we can ignore cheap physical gags, the drug-like dependence on offensive stereotypical fallbacks is needlessly grating. Are gay cowboys still really that funny? Does every Chinese man have to wear whitey-tighties and sport the standard, chipper yet downright unrealistic “Asian” accent? Or worse, does stringing foreign car names together really give a good sense of how Japanese sounds to a PG-13 audience? Even as a Michigan-bred Korean-American, maybe me don’t understand American culture that well, but it’s hard not to recognize how prejudice continues to exist in a country with a such a reductive film.
In fact, the only thing that may slightly justify the appalling amount of money this film will gross is watching one of the main characters gratuitously punch Oprah in the face. Ah, sweet catharsis.
Rating: 1/2 out of 5 stars
Scary Movie 4
At the Showcase and Quality 16