"Have you ever had that sinking feeling in your stomach that something
bad was about to happen, sort of like when you see an Asian behind
the wheel of a car?"
Brenda Meeks (Regina Hall) in "Scary Movie 3"
After the funny but threadbare "Scary Movie 2," who actually thought
there was still enough juice and inspiration left in the successful
horror movie-spoofing series for a third installment? If you are familiar
with director David Zucker's comedic oeuvre (the slapstick classics
"Airplane" and "The Naked Gun" trilogy), then you should have known
not to count the series out just yet. Taking over for the Wayans'
brothers, Zucker has reinvigorated the series with his own special
brand of humor: physical comedy and sly dialogue over raunchy sex
and drug jokes, which is what 2000's "Scary Movie" and 2001's "Scary
Movie 2" relied so heavily on. And if "Scary Movie 3" does not reach
the delirious, rib-tickling heights of the o riginal, it does improve
upon the first sequel by actually featuring a solidly developed narrative,
rather than simply stringing a line of skits together.
If "Scary Movie" targeted the modern slasher genre, and "Scary Movie
2" focused on haunted house movies, then "Scary Movie 3" takes a stinging
jab at the likes of alien and supernatural pics. Screenwriters Craig
Mazin and Pat Proft do an admirable job of taking heavy elements from
2002's "The Ring" and 2002's "Signs" and piecing them into their own
unique whole. Daffy, lovable series regular Cindy Campbell (Anna Faris)
is now a Washington, D.C. newscaster who becomes intrigued when she
reports on a crop circle that has mysteriously appeared in the cornfield
of loca l farmer Tom Logan (Charlie Sheen). Cindy's investigation
leads her to a videotape that when the person watches it, they receive
a phone call informing them that they have seven days to live. Following
the death of best friend Brenda Meeks (Regina Hall), who watched the
videotape a week earlier, Cindy foolishly views it herself and the
countdown to her own death begins.
Add in clever references to "The Others," "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,"
"The Lord of the Rings," and "The Matrix," and "Scary Movie 3" becomes
a movie buff's comedy heaven. Casual filmgoers who haven't seen all
of the aforementioned films will likely not understand many of the
jokes, and thus need not apply. While an out-of-place "8 Mile" subplot
is unnecessary early on (how, exactly, is the Eminem-starrer a horror
flick?), the film as a whole beats the usual odds of spoofs by carrying
its often hilarious puns, pratfalls, and one-liners all the way to
the very end, never stalling in the process. As the dim President
of the United States, who instructs his First Aide to inform the President
of the impending alien invasion before being reminded that he is the
President, Leslie Nielsen makes a welcome return to a genre he was
seemingly made for. Nielsen gets maximum comic mileage out of his
every appearance, including a very funny climactic ode to a line he
made famous in "Airplane!"
The expansive cast is filled wall-to-wall with recognizable faces.
Just as she was in the previous two entries, Anna Faris (2003's "May")
is a delight as the put-upon Cindy Campbell. Faris k nows how to sell
comedy; whether it be physical, such as running into a microphone,
or dialogue-driven, as when she tells her constantly battered psychic
nephew (Drew Mikuska) that the reason she took him into her home was
because she had just lost a cat and wanted something to pet and feed,
Faris is dynamite. As the only other returnee to the series, the brilliantly
hysterical Regina Hall (2003's "Malibu's Most Wanted") gets some of
the biggest laughs as she reprises her role of the tell-it-like-it-is
Brenda Meeks. Hall, rest her soul, is also the centerpiece of what
is easily the most tasteless joke of any "Scary Movie." Without going
into specifics, it is set at a funeral home and goes so far over-the-top
into bad taste that one is unsure whether they should be laughing at all.
"Hot Shots!" alum Charlie Sheen also gets in on the fun as widowed
farmer Tom Logan, who is still mourning from the death of his wife
(Denise Richards) after she was hit by a car and torn in half. As
Tom's brother, George, who has a dream of being a rap star and strikes
up a romance with Cindy, Simon Rex (2001's "The Forsaken") also proves
he has comic talent. Also making fun (if too brief) appearances are
Pamela Anderson and Jenny McCarthy (2000's "Scream 3"), mocking their
image as they play the two dumbest Catholic school girls on the planet
in the opening parody of "The Ring;" Camryn Manheim (1998's "Happiness")
as a sincere sherrif with a hat so big she can hardly fit it in her
police car; Queen Latifah (2003's "Bringing Down the House") as The
Oracle, who gets into a fight ing match with the woman on the videotape;
and Darrell Hammond (2003's "Agent Cody Banks") as the pedophilic
Father Muldoon, who babysits Cindy's nephew and has already begun
lighting the romantic candles before she has even left.
"Scary Movie 3" does not always hit the bullseye, but the jokes come
at such a breakneck pace that even when one falls flat, you can be
assured three more are right around the corner. Much of its failing
is not due to the film itself, anyway, but because a lot of the material
was shown in the trailers and television ads and has ceased being
funny. Its other disappointing aspect is the PG-13 rating (the first
two were hard R's); at times, it feels as if the filmmakers are holding
back simply so they can get a more family-friendly rating.
What is appreciated, however, is that director David Zucker has ensured
the movie feels like a satisfying whole, even one as silly and intentionally
preposterous as this. Unlike "Scary Movie 2," it doesn't smell like
such a rush job. If your idea of a good time is trying not to roll
in the aisles with laughter and risk making a fool of yourself, then
"Scary Movie 3" surprisingly fits the bill. It's tightly written,
it's full of energy, and even when it dares to offend, it remains
good-humored and just plain entertaining.
Copyright © 2003 Dustin Putman