Sigh... Here's more of the same.
You can pretty much trust the critics' reviews on this one. I know movies like this aren't made to get critical raves, and in that sense they are critic-proof. I like stupid comedies (as long as they are genuinely funny and clever - not just stupid), especially of the screwball "Naked Gun" mold and, even more so, of the raunchy original "Scary Movie" type. I may be embarrassed to try and defend a movie like "Scary Movie" but I'd be a liar to say I didn't love it. So, in that sense, if any "name" critic were to tell me "Scary Movie 4" is a stupid, bad movie, how do I know I can trust them?
Not that they are always wrong about these movies ("Scary Movie 2" was dreadfully lazy, unfunny and, basically, awful), but I figure I have to judge for myself. Every once in a while I'm glad I did. Usually though, I know what I'm getting into and just keeping my fingers crossed for a surprise.
Not surprisingly, "Scary Movie 4" is not that movie.
Sure it's better than "2," and there are several funny moments, probably enough to make it worth a rental, but they are forgotten almost as soon as you leave the theatre. 0f what I remember, Leslie Nielsen has the best moments over all, proving he's still got it with his hilarious dead-pan, oblivious looks and dialog-deliveries; he's as good as he ever was. Too bad there wasn't more of him here (he is essentially a cameo). And the "War of the Worlds" spoof stuff was funny for a while, especially to me because I didn't much care for that movie (it already felt like a spoof of Sci-Fi flicks with its dumb logic, dumb dialog and cheesy performances). Here, one of the best gags involves the Tri-Ipods (ho, ho) attacking the city and, as in "WOTW," none of the transportation devices work; this includes bikes and skateboards (of course, Spielberg already spoofed himself in his own movie by allowing a camcorder to work while every other electronic device - from cars to wristwatches - shut down; but I digress). That scene is fairly early on in the film and, come to think of it, that's where most of the comic gems are.
The movie starts out well, hitting most of its targets in a quick, random fashion. None of it is great, but it works well enough to earn a few real laughs: The "Saw" stuff with Shaq and Dr. Phil, the scene with Charlie Sheen, Cindy's new office, her gleefully absurd flashback to her first marriage, Anthony Anderson and his "pal" in a bar riffing on the phrase "turn up missing" (how can you turn up and be missing at the same time?), almost everything right up until the actual shape of the story begins to take place, which ultimately becomes just one big spoof of "War of the Worlds," with a "The Village" segue thrown in the middle for no real reason (although here, Carmen Electra earns some laughs in fearless cameo); in the same way as "Scary Movie 2" degenerated into a one-joke spoof of "The Haunting" - another originally bad movie that needed no spoof in order for us to laugh at it.
The "Scary Movie" franchise started with a truly audacious, hardcore comedy original. Not for kids, it earned its hard-R rating (originally it got an NC-17), but it worked. You laughed at not only the gags, but out of embarrassment for laughing at them, and the Wayans Brothers sheer audacity to put some of that stuff up on the screen. It wasn't brilliant, but it was brilliantly vile and unexpectedly hilarious. It caught everyone off guard; no one expecting the movie to go that far and, in turn, be that screamingly funny. And it was a different, original stab at the genre (spoofs were generally all done in the PG-13 "Hot Shots!" vein). It became a deserved huge hit. So the Wayans delivered a sequel that just continued to milk the same well until it was dry (#2 did half the box-office of the original and was hissed at by both critics and fans). Wisely the Wayans bowed out, but the movies were turned over to David Zucker, a great director who gave us "Airplane!" and "The Naked Gun" just to name a few. Zucker makes funny movies, but he makes far different movies (precisely the kind the Wayans brothers were trying to top with the original). The rating dropped to PG-13 and the franchise was now safe for pre-teens. "Scary Movie 3" was better than 2, but only because it couldn't be any worse. Just as in this latest entry, 3 had scattered scenes that scored laughs, but had far too many obvious, predictable and lazy targets. It hit 'em, but none too thrillingly. All the pizzazz of the original was gone and the series had turned into just another spoof franchise that does not stand out amongst any of its type. Zucker is a competent director but he gave up being exciting a long time ago. With "Scary Movie 3," this year's equally bland hit-and-(far more) miss "Date Movie" and now "Scary Movie 4," he has done some of the laziest work of his career.
Want proof? Look at some of the other reviews on this site. The big raves come from teens who, probably were so young, they weren't allowed to see the first movie when it came out; not that it would have mattered much because that also means that they were in preschool when "Scream" and all the other movies the original spoofed came out. But that's okay because that is now who this franchise is for. For them, it is harmless fun - just ask the 20 or so kids who were dying with laughter at the screening I attended this afternoon. And for all the people who like broad, slapstick style comedy rather than a boundary-pusher, and are not very discriminating (ie, as long as you get the references and there is plenty of potty humor), you may enjoy this. But I have to believe it can be done better than this. I have seen it done better than this. And admit it, so have you.
It's a testimate to Zucker's talent that these films, bland as they are, are still watchable and manage to score some laughs. I'll be first in line when he decides to return to form. (I'm not even asking for the highs of "Airplane!" or "The Naked Gun," I'd be happy with something along the lines of "Baseketball" or "Top Secret!" again.)