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Anna Faris and Regina Hall are back, again, as duelling, unfunny idiots Cindy Campbell and  Brenda. Director David Zucker, and his ‘crack’ team bring them into a spoof plot mish-mash of Saw, War of the Worlds, The Village, and The Grudge. Craig Bierko guest stars as Tom Ryan, a filler for Tom Cruise's War of the Worlds everyman, Ray Ferrier. Together, these humourless dimwits battle to save the world from a ruthless alien invasion. Cindy moves in next-door to Tom to take care of an invalid in a haunted house, ala The Grudge. The house's resident ghost warns Cindy of the invasion of evil alien ‘Tr-iPods’, and suggests that she go to a local village in order to find the way to stop it. There are a few jabs at the real life Tom Cruise, and some homophobic Brokeback Mountain jokes tossed in for good measure, and Leslie Nealson reprises his role from the previous Scary Movie as the moronic President of the United States.

Scary Movie 4: Unrated
I don't get it.

I don't get how the same tired jokes about erections and flatulence can still gross over $90 million in the United States alone. Did that many people really like the first three Scary Movies? I'll admit I still remember seeing the original Wayans Bros. film in a crowded urban  theatre in South Phoenix, and thinking it was just about the funniest thing ever. Then I rented the DVD and had to turn it off half way through because it was so unbearably awful. Perhaps these movies only work in a crowd. Regardless, I didn't see the other two Scary Movies, and don't imagine they had much to add to the series' credit.

But I find it hard to believe that even in a stadium full of giddy schoolgirls I'd find Scary Movie 4 anything more than mildly amusing. I laughed at exactly three of the film's four hundred thousand gags, and I'll go ahead and ruin them for you here so you don't have to sit through the other eighty minutes of laugh-less boredom. I snickered as the aging Asian man showing Cindy around the Grudge-like haunted house desperately tried to hide the disembodied black ghost hair in the hopes that she wouldn't notice and take the homecare job no one else could. This is probably due to the fact that I've watched about sixteen such films over the last year, and could really relate to the gag. I also chuckled when the alien Tr-iPod's display read ‘destroy humanity’, it was cute, as was the following scene where Tom tries to let his mechanic into the only working van in Jersey (remember the scene from War of the Worlds?), but is foiled by the fact that they keep unlocking and opening the door at the same instant. There, those were the funny bits, use your imagination and save yourselves some money.

Scary Movie 4: Unrated
I'll give the four (!) writers a lick of credit for finding a way to tie together the main plots of The Grudge, Saw, and War of the Worlds. The overall arc is a little clever, but the lame jokes in between create such a rancid smoke screen it doesn't really matter.

I honestly like Anna Faris, Anthony Anderson, and Craig Bierko. I hope for their sakes that the money was good, because this kind of half-assed fluff simply can't look good on an honest resume. Anderson's been in a brew-full of horrible films, and often still comes out smelling rather rosy, but Faris has become entirely typecast because of this character. She's got a lot of base comedic talent that isn't obvious or well utilized here, but anyone fortunate enough to see Lucky McKee's May or Sophia Coppola's Lost in Translation knows that. Even when typecast, she can really shine. I'm most offended by director David Zucker's implosive work, as he's the one guy on this crew that really should know better; after all, he practically invented the modern film spoof along with his brother Jerry and cohort Jim Abrahams when the team made classics like Kentucky Fried Movie and Airplane!. Perhaps he wasn't the 'brains' of the outfit.

I suppose my biggest problem with the film, and in turn all films in of its ilk, is that I fail to see the point in spoofing such recent and irrelevant films or topics. How many of us are going to remember the 2005 version of War of the Worlds, the American re-make of The Grudge, or even Saw in ten years, let alone find them at all relevant? And for that matter, how many of us even saw The Village? I loved Spielberg's War of the Worlds, but let's be realistic, it wasn't his most memorable picture. I'll concede that black, flowing ghost hair, and Tom Cruise's much mooted Opera freak-out have probably entered the collective zeitgeist, but who cares about a film that's dated before its five month DVD turnaround?

Scary Movie 4: Unrated
Spoofing broad, engraved subjects makes sense, and some spoofs are truly timeless. For instance, I'm sure that Young Frankenstein and original Looney Tunes shorts will forever prove amusing to countless generations, as will Zucker's original Airplane. One could argue that these films and shorts were made in the hopes of creating some kind of art. Though Warhol fanatics may argue that all product is art when labelled so, I'm pretty sure that all of us, lovers and detractors alike, can agree that Scary Movies 2-4 were made in the pure pursuit of the almighty dollar, not as relevant works of art.

This creates a conundrum for me as an honest reviewer—how can I honestly critique this eighty-three minute commercial? Basically these things are released entirely critic-proof (with a few idiotic exceptions), and I'd even hazard to guess that in the eyes of their fans they couldn't possibly do any wrong. I could rant all day about how this film wasted an hour and twenty-three minutes of my life, and how I wanted to simply stop the disc, throw it out the window and tell the Weinstein Company I never received it and thus couldn't complete my review, but what would be the point. The folks who enjoyed this dreck will still enjoy it, and the creators least of all will give a rodent’s fundament what I think on the way to the bank. And frankly the whole thing makes me feel conceited and arrogant in my personal tastes.

I guess it all goes back to the fact that I just don't get it.

Scary Movie 4: Unrated

Video


Scary Movie 4 was filmed using the same HD cameras Bryan Singer used on the set of Superman Returns. The HD photography is sharp, but on a standard definition set can look slightly off during movement. It's hard to describe, but there is something ‘different’ about it. Even though I hated the film, I must admit this transfer's near-perfection. The cinematography isn't very imaginative, but it is colourful and gave my set a nice workout. There is little to no artefacting, nor did I encounter any major compression problems.

Audio


There's really nothing here to get excited about, and I'm actually surprised that Zucker and company haven't found a way to make surround sound funny. There are a few War of the Worlds inspired set pieces, but the audio is stilted and weak. I understand that Zucker didn't want the Tr-iPods to be frightening like they were in Spielberg’s film, but when coupled with the (purposefully?) weak special visual effects, these sound effects come across as bargain basement. Music tracks fare better, and the awful hip-hop gives the LFE something to do.

Extras


I had this great line planned for my impending audio commentary review of Scary Movie 4—‘The only thing worse then listening to a bad joke is listening to someone laugh at their own bad joke.’ I held it in my hand and clutched it close to my heart as I started the commentary, featuring director David Zucker, producer Bob Weiss, and co-writer Craig Mazin, but as the track progressed I realized that the creators weren't really all that fond of the film either. For the most part they tell funnier stories about their pasts, even referring specifically to the better jokes of Zucker's earlier films. The track ends with Zucker thanking the viewer for purchasing the disc, followed closely by Mazin shouting a resounding ‘sucker’. It's all too painfully appropriate.

Scary Movie 4: Unrated
The deleted scenes have all been removed for pacing, and it's obvious. If only Zucker had seen fit to remove a few more scenes, because even at eighty-three minutes the film is sluggish. I really expected some kind of King Kong joke here, but still didn't get one. Why is he on the cover, and what movie preview did I see a spoof of Kong in?

The rest of the disc is fluff. The bloopers are exactly what one would expect—actors forgetting their lines. Sadly it's actually the funnier than anything in the film to watch Faris space out. There are a series of really short featurettes devoted mostly to Zucker butt kissing, and again, watching the aging director laugh on set is actually funnier than anything in the film. On the even less funny and even less interesting end of the spectrum are a few featurettes about the hip-hop ‘stars’ of the film, an elaborate interview prank played by the cast on the disc’s interviewer, and a look at the film's special effects. Personally, I find the inclusion of these rappers entirely placative, but maybe that's just me. As far as the special effects go, were these people actually going for realism? I thought the shoddy CG was part of the joke, but apparently they were meant to be taken seriously. It's kind of sad actually.

Overall


I issue a challenge to the creators of the next film in the Scary Movie franchise (we all know there's going to be one): Make the next film a totally Dadaist and plot-less mess on purpose to test your audience’s endurance and taste. Just film a roomful of topless women on toilets defecating and throwing bowling balls at each other for eighty minutes. I'm serious. Let's make Scary Movie 5 a work of venomous art. How long can the average person laugh at the same thing? When is flatulence officially not funny any more? When do breasts lose their titillation? Extra points if you can convince the audience to where eye-propping apparatuses like that used on Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange.


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