Anna Faris returns as the ever-naïve Cindy Campbell, her breathy, brow-raised obliviousness the anchoring ballast of the Scary Movie
series. The story this time around finds Cindy seeking a career in home
healthcare, and teaming up with divorced dad “himbo” Tom Ryan (Craig
Bierko) when the world is attacked by giant alien iPods that spring
forth from the ground as part of a madman’s plot to destroy humankind.
A quick roll call of the movie’s main spoof ingredients consists of War of the Worlds, The Grudge, The Village, Saw and Million Dollar Baby, with Brokeback Mountain running a distant sixth.
Shaquille O’Neal and daytime gabber Dr. Phil open the movie in a Saw
spoof, and Charlie Sheen, Anthony Anderson, Simon Rex and Leslie
Nielsen reprise their roles from the third movie in the series, the
latter as clueless President Baxter Harris. Back too is Regina Hall as
Cindy’s intrepid and horny best friend, Brenda, while series vets Chris
Elliott and Carmen Electra turn up in different capacities. Other
featured players include Cloris Leachman, Bill Pullman, Michael Madsen,
Molly Shannon, Debra Wilson and a litany of rappers who pop up to sow
the franchise’s mushrooming urban appeal.
There is, of course, absolutely no natural narrative rhythm to Scary Movie 4,
and the mondo physical gags (the serial abuse of Tom Ryan’s Dakota
Fanning-esque daughter, the gross-out prerequisites) frequently wear on
for too long, in effect apologizing for the movie’s PG-13 rating by
goosing audiences past the point of complete numbness with potty humor.
This, to me, makes it much more suited for a casual and possibly
piecemeal at-home viewing, but others might raucously disagree.
The movie’s production team deserves special mention, though, in
that their keen eye toward faithful recreation helps go a long way
toward sustaining the… well, if not “conceit” of the movie, then at
least its downhill momentum. In addition to some comparatively sly
visual gags (Tom Ryan splitting Dura-logs, and complaining about the
monotony of his job as crane operator while playing a lift-and-drop
slot game), there are also a few cleverly subversive bits that would
have never found a home in the first Scary Movie, including a send-up of President Bush’s distracted reaction when first hearing about the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Billed as “the fourth and final chapter of the trilogy,” Scary Movie 4
is every bit as naturally disposable as one might expect, but that’s
hardly a damning criticism in a country that, if not predicated on
convenience and whim, is now certainly deeply in its thrall. As an
irreverent repackaging of just-of-the-moment pop culture, Scary Movie 4 evidences no signs of franchise slowdown. Quite to the contrary, it’s doing just fine. Belch! (Dimension/Weinstein Company, PG-13, 80 mins.)