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Published: Friday, 10/24/2003

Movie review: Scary Movie 3 **

BY CHRISTOPHER BORRELLI
BLADE STAFF WRITER

But it's kind of a bummer, and the name is Scary Movie 3. Ever get that not-so-fresh feeling? Grabbing the helm of the sinking ship that is the Scary Movie series is comedy director David Zucker. He might not have invented the joke-a-minute-no-waiting spoof movie genre - that would be Mel Brooks - but he perfected it with Airplane!, the Naked Gun movies, and the rest of those high-school-skits-as-comedies he created with brother Jerry and Jim Abrahams.

Then a few years ago, another set of brothers, the Wayans, smartly appropriated the Zucker style for Scary Movie, giving it a tweak. Zucker-Abrahams always went for the corniest, the most obvious, the most sophomoric - brilliantly. They revolutionized the knock-knock joke, more or less.

But by stealing equal parts Mad magazine and Mel, the Wayans returned the spoof genre to its talking-back-to-the-screen roots. The problem is these are hard times for parodists. Their target was Scream, and how do you satirize a movie that's already a satire? By going over the same ground, by going over the top. Regina Hall sitting in a theater and watching Shakespeare in Love while simultaneously videotaping it and talking on her cell phone (“Brad Pitt's ex-girlfriend is a freak!”) made up a bit for the 55 percent of gags that flopped.

Last year's Scary Movie 2 - same problems, less inspiration, with bonks to the head when things slowed down. (How do you parody the parody that is Charlie's Angels?) Scary Movie 3 is not the humanity-sucking experience of that sequel - I laughed out loud a few times, I admit - but it has advantages it just lets wander by: namely, big honking, smug, self-important targets that have been asking for a kick in the pants. The last film took on who-cares pictures like The Haunting. This one smartly aims for The Ring, Signs, 8 Mile, The Matrix Reloaded - only to depressingly fall back on bonks to the heads and knees to the groin.

Does anybody need another Michael Jackson joke - they should have saved it for the trailer, where it gets a chuckle, then cut it from the film, where it just finds the one guy in the theater who hasn't seen the trailer. Not when you have Eminem to spoof. Not when there's that grim art house horror aesthetic of The Ring that could stand a sharp jab.

Zucker is wheezing to comprehend what these kids are up to. Returning from the previous films is Anna Faris. She's Cindy, our heroine turned TV reporter on the trail of a killer video tape that explains those crop circles on that nearby farm owned by the priest played by Charlie Sheen and a white rapper played by Simon Rex. If you haven't seen the precedents to that, don't bother with Scary Movie 3. If you have, you'll find yourself waiting for that thing great parody does so well: pointing out cliches you didn't notice the first time.

For the record: the Signs material works best, especially a few pokes at the plot holes; The Ring bits work second best (“You're going to kill me in seven days? Seven business days?”); and everything else, not at all. The bottom line with a movie like Scary Movie 3: Is it funny? And the answer: How many laughs should a single trip-and-fall-down contain? I do like the immediacy of these pictures - they're cheap and fast enough to be produced while their target is still moving - but there's a dashed-off, first-stab-no-rewrite feel here that will be immediately recognized by anyone who sticks around for the last 10 minutes of Saturday Night Live, when Lorne Michaels gives his B-list players a shot and the studio audience can be heard gathering things to leave. I would suggest not even arriving.



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