Sunday, August 13, 2006

Scary Movie 4 (2006)

Scary Movie 4The Scary Movie franchise has not received an easy ride from the critics or, if the imdb ratings are to be believed, from the public either. Universally derided as puerile, unfunny, laboured pieces of work, the movies somehow seem able to turn massive profits, despite the consistently negative reviews. Scary Movie 4 received marginally better reviews than previous episodes in the franchise, so I decided to give it a go.

And I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. OK, so this isn't rocket science, and the humour isn't cerebral in any size, shape or form. The movie relies on slapstick, politically incorrect verbal punchlines, and audience knowledge of recent blockbusters for most of its laughs. But the important thing is that there ARE laughs, and although many of the jokes misfire, they're delivered at such a fast pace that you don't have long to wait for another belly laugh to show up.

Scary Movie 4 combines Spielberg's War of the Worlds with the Japanese-inspired horror Dark Water for its main ongoing story, with spoofs of The Village, Brokeback Mountain, Saw and countless other films also popping into place. There are even spoofs taken from real life (George Bush being told about 9/11 in a class full of children, Tom Cruise on Oprah's chat show) which if they don't produce a great belly laugh, will at least make you smile.

Director David Zucker, who also directed the third film in the franchise, gives the whole thing a 'big budget blockbuster' feel, and recreates the style of many of the original movies that are being spoofed here, mainly because it seems the producers had access to the props used in the original movies. The cast, which include cameos from the likes of Charlie Sheen and Leslie Nielson (in a nude scene I'm desperately trying to forget - I have no idea what possessed him to agree to this!), are excellent with the exception of some of the non-actor celebrities. An opening skit on Saw nearly fails because US "celebrity" Doctor Phil can't really act, but thankfully a good, if obvious, punchline saves the skit. The two leads, Craig Bierko and Anna Faris give convincing performances as cliched romantic leads, with both having the comic timing that is required to deliver the punch lines effectively.

Overall, the movie reminded me a lot of Airplane, arguably one of the funniest films of all time, and it turns out that Scary Movie 4 is from the same writers, so I'm at a bit of a loss as to explain the consistently negative reviews.

That being said, the film isn't all good. It doesn't really work as a film, being too disjointed without a consistent enough through-line. And too many of the jokes are obvious, or just not very funny. There's little originality here either - the makers owe a LOT to Buster Keaton. But given the choice between watching this or any of the offerings from the extremely unfunny, gurning crowd I think of as Saturday Night Live rejects (Jack Black, Ben Stiller, Mike Myers, Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson etc) who seem to have a monopoly on any so-called 'comedy' coming out of Hollywood I'd take this in preference any time.

Extra's wise, things are pretty generous. The commentary from the director and producers is fun and informative, and a whole bunch of very short featurettes will please fans, although I can't really see much interest in trying to tell the story of the humour. Some of the deleted scenes, frequently alternative jokes for scenes that are in the movie, are actually as funny as what is included in the film, but the blooper reel didn't raise a laugh from this viewer.

Not a great film, but one that's better than its and imdb ratings imply. Certainly you could do a lot worse if you're looking for a popcorn comedy movie. If you don't like slapstick or juvenile (but funny) toilet/black humour then this is one to avoid, but if you want a few good belly laughs you could do a lot worse. I enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would but depending on how many of the spoofed movies you've seen your mileage may vary.


monster said...

Hey, i think it's from Ju-On. Not the Dark Water movie. Anyway, nice reviews!

Ian said...

Thanks. Other reviewers seem to agree with you. I've not seen Ju-On but with that whole dark patch in the corner of the room, girl in the bath thing I just assumed it was "Dark Water". I guess many of these Japanese horror movies (or American remakes of them) have similar elements in them!

Scary Movies said...

Yes, it's Ju-On (The Grudge). All of those Japanese Horror movies have great imagery but somehow they all blend together in your mind when you think of them. Perhaps I've overdosed on Asian Horror! :P