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SCARY MOVIE

Review by Andrew Manning (7/00)

Release: 2000, Dimension
Starring: Anna Faris, Shannon Elizabeth, Marlon Wayans, Shawn Wayans, Regina Hall, Cheri Oteri, Carmen Electra
Director: Keenen Ivory Wayans
MPAA Rating: [R] sexuality, violence, language
Genre: Comedy/Horror


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SUMMARY

When a group of teenagers accidentally kill an old man one summer, a stalker in a ghoulish Halloween mask begins to terrorize them. Scary Movie is a spoof of the Scream trilogy, the I Know What You Did Last Summer movies, and other films that have reached the self-parody level in pop culture.

THE SUDDEN RUNDOWN

Many of the jokes are obvious, played out, and even stupid, but you can't help but laugh with this ensemble of pop culture parodies.

WHAT'S GOOD

Like the equally Wayans-heavy comedy Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood, Scary Movie takes a slew of popular films, distills them to their most popular elements, and parodies the hell out of them. This time, horror movies are the centrally spoofed targets, with a story that combines I Know What You Did Last Summer with Scream. And just for good measure, there's also gags involving The Sixth Sense, The Usual Suspects, The Blair Witch Project, The Matrix, American Pie, and even Amistad.

Scary Movie's greatest strength is how it makes its source material look stupid. If anything, it shows us all the stereotypes of those popular movies in plain light. One need only look at the names of Scary Movie's characters to see which archetypes they are spoofing. Anna Faris gets to be the Neve Campbell virgin character (named Cindy Campbell, a combination of Neve Campbell's last name with a slight tweaking of her Scream character's first name, Sidney). Carmen Electra lands the role of the Drew Barrymore character from the first Scream (her name is also "Drew") and does a little Baywatch type running through the sprinklers. Saturday Night Live spinner Cheri Oteri plays bitchy reporter Gale Hailstorm (parodying Courteney Cox's Gail Weathers from Scream). Marlon Wayans is a combo of horror movie buff Randy from Scream and the kid in The Sixth Sense, and he "sees dead people." And top-heavy hottie Shannon Elizabeth from American Pie plays Buffy Gilmore, parodying the beauty queen wannabe Sarah Michelle Gellar (aka TV's "Buffy") played in I Know What You Did Last Summer.

When I snag this movie on DVD, I might sit down and list off every reference in this flick. Until then, though, I'll just list the jokes that I can remember and that stood out in my mind as pretty funny. Of course, there's all the standard fare you go into the movie expecting: the dripping nose close-up spoofing Heather Donohue's flaring nostrils shot in The Blair Witch Project; the antics of Gale Hailstorm and the Homer Simpson-like cameraman following her around; the freeze-frame, 360-degree camera shot that has become the trademark of The Matrix; Marlon Wayans cowering in a corner and confiding, "I see dead people"; the car collision involving an old man, taken from I Know What You Did Last Summer; the killer in the Halloween mask calling people up on the phone in his creepy, filtered voice; and the exploitatively luscious camera angles used on Jennifer Love Hewitt in the Summer movies.

All of these scenes are good for a laugh, but I got a bigger kick out of the briefer, less popular gags. For example, Squiggy from Laverne & Shirley is the school principal, no doubt a take-off on the fact that Henry "The Fonze" Winkler was the school principal in the first Scream (for those who don't remember, Laverne & Shirley was a spin-off of Happy Days). I also enjoyed the unexpected references to Amistad. After all, what tasteless movie would be complete without jokes about something you shouldn't make fun of (in this case, slavery)?

There's also plenty of eye candy to go around. Carmen Electra's big, fake, heaving chest is gratuitously put on display as she runs from the killer like in a cheesy '80s horror flick. There's even a joke involving breast implants when the killer stabs her. Shannon Elizabeth is wicked hot as the token ditzy slut, and we get to watch her prance around in a swimsuit as she duplicates Summer's beauty pageant scene. She's even pretty funny in slapstick comedy, as she gets clocked in the head while walking down the runway.

Many times, Scary Movie gets outright stupid, and the film has its share of flaws. But despite all of the weak points, fans of the movies that are being spoofed won't be able to help but just laugh.


WHAT'S BAD

While Scary Movie definitely has its moments, many of the jokes simply aren't that clever. Funny, yes--clever, no. There's a certain lack of creativity when the writers only zero in on the obvious gags, and it's easy to be disappointed if you are expecting more. For example, I wasn't too impressed by the "Wazzup!!!" scene taken from Budweiser's latest ad campaign. As socially topical as the material is, I think it's already old and played out. And I have this really awful feeling that the Bud "Wazzup!!!" routine will become the "show me the money" of this year.

Sometimes it feels like you're watching a bad Naked Gun when the jokes fall flat. In these instances, a good comparison for this movie might be to call it the horror/comedy version of the critical flop Wrongfully Accused starring Leslie Nielsen. (Although to be fair, even that might be a little harsh.)

To fully appreciate the comedy of Scary Movie, one really needs to have a background in all the films I mentioned above. If you haven't seen the movies Scary Movie is making fun of, you'll miss far too many of the references.

Because it so failed to live up to its full potential, I can't recommend that everyone rush out to see Scary Movie. But anyone looking to kill a couple hours with comedy could do worse, so my rating for this flick is just modestly on the plus side of average.


Rating: 6 out of 10 (0=Abysmal, 5=Average, 10=Excellent)
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