The Scary Movie franchise seems well on its way to becoming as indestructible as Jason Voorhees or Freddy Krueger, periodically resurfacing to rake in cash by sloppily spoofing the past few years’ worth of Hollywood horror and sci-fi hits. Not straying from its trademark formula, the fourth installment once again follows Anna Faris’s Cindy as she stumbles and bumbles her way through a parade of mashed-together parodies, the main points of reference this time around being War of the Worlds, The Grudge, Saw, Million Dollar Baby, The Village, and Brokeback Mountain. Yet as with the series’s last entry, director David Zucker (working with longtime writing partner Jim Abrahams, as well as Craig Mazin) never comes close to creating an atmosphere of inspired lunacy, his loosely connected scenes deriving humor not by inventively deconstructing their marquee targets, but rather by having random B-grade celebrities (Dr. Phil, Carmen Electra, Mike Tyson) goof off in familiar movie or pop culture scenarios. Its nominal story about an invasion of extraterrestrial triPods (i.e. killer iPods modeled after Steven Spielberg’s WotW invaders), Scary Movie 4 finds both Faris and Craig Bierko—doing a bonkers Tom Cruise impression that climaxes with some Oprah couch-jumping—acquitting themselves decently amid a surfeit of crude cinematic allusions and bowel movement/fart jokes. Faring less successfully, however, are Zucker favorite Leslie Nielsen (as a Dubya-dumb commander-in-chief), Chris Elliott (as a snot-twirling idiot), and the always excruciating Bill Pullman (as a village chief), all of whom wind up stuck with material that’s at least a year past its expiration date. Of course, the madcap action’s visual and structural shoddiness could be disregarded were it actually funny. But even more than its predecessors, the slipshod Scary Movie 4 feels composed of barely formed ideas, as if its makers believed that fashioning well thought-out comedy was unnecessary when the entire film could be predicated on turgid slapstick bits that simply congratulate viewers for having seen a handful of recent studio blockbusters.
The quality of the image and sound is stunning except for some pretty nasty chroma noise that occasionally clings to bright blue objects, like the straps from the bra of one of Charlie Sheen's bitches and the stripes on the Dakota Fanning avatar's outfit.
It's almost humbling to hear director David Zucker, producer Robert K. Weiss, and co-writer Craig Mazin acknowledge that the Scary Movie franchise is of little value. "We don't do satire and we have no point," says one of them, bravely and convincingly, on their joint commentary track. These guys are hilarious, though it should be noted that Zucker's laugh (the subject of the featurette "The Man Behind the Laugh") is an acquired taste and that Weiss's voice, given its Garry Shandling-ness, won't go over well with anyone who shares Mel Gibson's political beliefs. The trio, again, takes vicious snipes at their own material over 15 deleted and extended scenes that are all mostly unwatchable ("The Simpsons is a great show.and this is terrible," one of them says). In addition to "The Man Behind the Laugh," other featurettes included on the disc include a quickie look at the "zany" Zucker style, a visual effects piece, no less than two featurettes devoted to the rappers who starred in the film, and footage of the cast punking an interviewer on the set of the film. Rounding out the disc is a blooper reel and a theatrical trailer for the film and other titles in the Weinstein Company family.
The film is scary all right, usually for all the wrong reasons.