Saturday, July 29, 2000

Scary Movie / ** (2000)

In the opening moments of “Scary Movie,” Carmen Electra is taunted by a man dressed in a cloak and ghost mask, whose voice is disguised so well that she doesn’t know who it is when he asks what her name is. Why does he wish to know her name? “Scream” taught us in 1996 that killers like to know exactly who they are looking at, but this particular man is not checking her out from a distance; rather, he is gloating over her latest spread in Playboy. Suddenly a chase breaks out, and the murderer plunges a knife into her chest, pulling out a breast implant upon release of the weapon. These early scenes have such positive energy between victim and murderer that we suddenly see glimmers of hope, as if, at long last, the dead and buried spoof genre has found its shovel. But alas, like all of its ancestors, “Scary Movie” is a comedy stumbling around on stilts, a film so dreary, shapeless and juvenile that the laughs are low and attention spans become disconnected before the first half hour is through.

The story is essentially a blend of the “Scream” trilogy and the “I Know What You Did Last Summer” pictures, with brief touches of “The Matrix” and “The Blair Witch Project” thrown into the mix. Cindy Campbell (obviously a direct reference to the Neve Campbell character in the “Scream” pictures) is a typical high school girl with a secret. She and her friends killed (accidentally, of course) a local fisherman as he was passing across the road and they were driving ferociously down it on Halloween. He is alive, but no one notices, especially after they accidentally knock him back into unconsciousness via a flying beer bottle. To cover up their blunder, they decide to dump the body into the river, vowing never to again speak of the incident. Exactly a year later, local high school girl Drew (Electra, as spoken of earlier) is murdered. Who did it? Was it the man they supposedly killed? Amongst this introduction of premise, there is one successful quip delivered from Cindy, in which she announces “I’m glad this isn’t a movie, otherwise they’d have someone like Jennifer Love Hewitt play my part.”

Obviously no one cares about this plot, otherwise the audience would simply rent the movies listed above and see them again. So what do we care about as a result? Certainly not the jokes, most of which are delivered at a tone so raunchy and disgusting that, as the terrific Nathaniel R. Atcheson said in his recent review, they drop “the limbo bar a notch” in comparison to something like “There’s Something About Mary.” One scene in particular leaves me puzzled; no, not because I don’t comprehend it, but because I don’t understand how anyone could have gotten away with it at an R rating.

Allow me to set the scene: Ray (Shawn Wayans), one of the friends who was a witness to last Halloween’s accident, excuses himself to the bathroom during a showing of “Shakespeare In Love” at the local multiplex. Remember the “Scream 2” scene in which the victim entered a stall, put his head up close to a wall when he heard noise from the other side, and was stabbed in the head? Just take that scene, put a hole in the wall, and stick a penis through it instead of a knife. What’s the excuse for this? Has the MPAA now stooped so low as to act lenient towards sex when it’s only intended for comic relief? To think “Eyes Wide Shut” almost got an NC-17 for thrusting penises that you couldn’t even see!

I’ve always maintained the belief that spoofs are essentially juvenile comedies that are more interested in poking fun at basic idiocy and rather than their own source material, and though “Scary Movie” tries to do the opposite, it doesn’t have any legitimate desire. The Wayans brothers have admitted to watching up to a dozen different popular films to help inspire their spoof, but where exactly is the inspiration? There is a scene early on when, like in “Scream,” a boyfriend climbs through the window at night, discusses his relationship with his girlfriend, hides behind the bed when her father enters the room, and then hops back out again when she doesn’t want to fool around in the sack. Practically all the dialogue is the same here (except for the discussion between father and daughter, which provides a couple of decent moments as daddy dearest gives his little girl tips on handling the drugs stashed in the house). Like practically every spoof since the dawn of cinema, “Scary Movie” seizes movies like “Scream” and “I Know What You Did Last Summer” not to poke fun at them, but to use their plots as tools to help string along all sorts of lame and pointless wisecracks.

Written by DAVID KEYES

Spoof (US); 2000; Rated R; 88 Minutes

Jon Abrahams: Bobby
Shannon Elizabeth: Buffy Gilmore
Cheri Oteri: Gail Hailstorm
Anna Faris: Cindy Campbell
Regina Hall: Brenda
Lochlyn Munro: Greg
Dave Sheridan: Doofy
Marlon Wayans: Shorty Meeks
Dan Joffre: Kenny
Carmen Electra: Drew Decker
Shawn Wayans: Ray
Kurt Fuller: Sherrif

Produced by Lisa Suzanne Blum, Eric L. Gold, Cary Granat, Brad Grey, Robb Wilson King, Lee R. Mayes, Peter Safran, Peter Schwerin, Keenen Ivory Wayans, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein and Bo Zenga; Directed by Keenen Ivory Wayans; Screenwritten by Shawn Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Buddy Johnson, Phil Beauman, Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer

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