The first two “Scary Movies” written and directed by the Wayans brothers, were R-rated, cheerfully raunchy, and cheekily politically incorrect parodies of popular movies, including Scream and its sequels. This latest in the series is rated PG-13 and the Wayanses have been replaced by David Zucker, director of both wildly funny comedy classics (Ruthless People and Airplane) and painfully un-funny flops (My Boss’s Daughter). This movie is somewhere in the middle, not as good as The Naked Gun series but better than Baseketball.
The plot has something to do with an alien invasion connected to a videotape and some crop circles, but that is just an excuse for a series of riffs on a couple of dozen recent movies, including Signs, The Ring, 8 Mile, and The Matrix. Some of the jokes come from juxtaposing two pop culture references, as when “American Idol’s” Simon Cowell shows up to critique an 8 Mile-inspired rap performance, when Charlie Sheen’s real-life wife, Denise Richards shows up as the dying wife of his Signs-inspired character, or when Pamela Anderson finds a The Ring-inspired videotape even scarier than the infamous video featuring her private moments with then-husband Tommy Lee.
More of the humor comes from gross physical harm or from wildly inappropriate comments or behavior in front of children. One child is hit by a car, repeatedly beaten and injured, molested by a priest, and told about his mother’s substance abuse during pregancy. A dead body is subjected to violent attempts to bring it back to life, resulting in the severing of its limbs.
The rest is that good old comedy staple — stupidity — as when a group of heavily armed gangstas show up to fight the aliens but then start arguing over who smudged whose sneakers and gun each other down instead.
There are some very funny moments, most already revealed in the movie’s coming attraction. Queen Latifah lights up her scenes as a psychic, with the able assitance of Eddie Griffin as her husband. George Carlin is a pleasure in a Matrix-inspired role. Regina Hall brings some snap to the best-friend-destined-to-die-early-on role. But this is a movie that will primarily appeal to those who can get excited about seeing performers like Ja Rule, Ghostface Killah, and Method Man acting silly, especially those who are young enough to get a kick out of the inherent subversiveness of any satire aimed at popular media, without caring too much whether any of the targets are actually hit.
Parents should know that as usual the MPAA gives a PG-13 rating to material in a comedy that would get an R-rating in a drama. There are jokes about drinking, smoking, drugs, sex, race, drunk driving, pedophile priests, gang shootings, barfing, menstruation, testicular cancer, beastiality, and people with disabilities. There are some graphic images, including severed heads and limbs, and a brief shot of a bare behind. The movie parodies racist stereotypes, but some audience members may believe that it perpetuates them as well. The movie has potty humor and shows dogs having sex.
Families who see this movie should talk about how the people who made it look at popular films to decide how to make fun of them.
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the original in this genre, Airplane by the same director. And they’ll enjoy the movie parodies in Mad Magazine.