Scary Movie 4

Scary Movie 4 begins by taking Dr. Phil down a peg or two in a sequence that mocks Saw. It’s not the parodying of other movies that’s funny in the film’s opening, but Dr. Phil’s deservedly humiliating admission that he’s a total fraud. Scary Movie 4 is a sub par collection of random parodies, but in the few places where it’s not slavishly mimicking other movies, it’s actually worth a chuckle.

But most of the movie, as have the other three before it, concerns the parodying of well-known films. In this case the focus seems to be primarily on 2005’s War of the Worlds and The Grudge. The War of the Worlds storyline stars Craig Bierko in the Tom Cruise role. Bierko you may remember as one of Russell Crowe’s many victims in Cinderella Man. Or since no one saw Cinderella Man, maybe not. The film’s other half stars Scary Movie franchise veteran Anna Faris as Cindy Campbell, a brain dead girl who wanders from one skit to another. Following her path through the movie is like following Billy through a Family Circus comic, and just about as entertaining. First she’s in the house from The Grudge, later she’s joined by her sexually depraved friend Brenda Meeks (Regina Hall) and ends up in a fairly accurate retelling of M. Night Shyamalan’s failed bit The Village.

If you’ve seen any of the three previous Scary Movies, you know how this goes. Scary Movie 4 should probably come with a laundry list of other films you need to see before it, if you’re going to get the majority of its weak attempts at jokes. Therein lies this franchise’s success: it’s designed for people who prefer the familiar. You’ve seen the movies Scary Movie is redoing and lightly mocking, so watching it is a comfortable, challenge free, affirming experience. It’s a comedy franchise for people who turn the channel whenever a song comes on the radio that sounds like something they’ve never heard before. There’s nothing wrong with that attitude, it’s just not a path towards mental growth. Personally, I’d rather hear something different and new.

For those of you happy with paying to see more of the usual, Scary Movie 4 delivers a few decent laughs, most of them from Leslie Nielson in the movie’s non-parodying moments. Parody is best left to brief skits on SNL, but if it must be crammed into a movie and punctuated with fart jokes, then at least Scary Movie 4 breaks it up with a few original bits of Nielson nudity and gets its parodying over in less than ninety minutes. It might even make you laugh… once or twice.

Josh Tyler