A "Naked Gun/Airplane!"-style parody of the recent '90s resurgence of slasher
movies was bound to happen sooner or later, and using the mother of them all,
"Scream," as its major outline, one couldn't ask for a film much more funny
or outrageously ballsy as "Scary Movie," mercilessly directed by Keenen Ivory
Wayans (1988's "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka"). Borrowing major plot points, and
then skewering them, from "I Know What You Did Last Summer," "The Blair Witch
Project," "The Matrix," "The Usual Suspects," and, yes, "Scream," the act of
watching "Scary Movie" is akin to getting, on average, five jokes, puns, and
one-liners, thrown at you per minute. As is always the case with spoofs, not
every comedic moment works, but so many are thrown at you, and there is such
an unusually high success rate, that anyone open-minded about humor that is
almost always in bad taste should have the most rib-ticklingly good time at
the movies this year so far.
Occasionally a scene-for-scene lampoon of the original "Scream," "Scary
Movie" has taken its basic plot, and added a prominent plot point from "I
Know What You Did Last Summer," to unleash its rapid-fire line of gags.
Carmen Electra opens the film in the Drew Barrymore role of Drew Decker, a
high school student home alone who receives a phone call from a stranger.
While jiffy popping some popcorn, they prattle on about their favorite scare
movies, including Drew's personal favorite, the Shaquille O'Neal genie movie,
"Kazaam!" Soon, however, the fun ends as she is being chased around her house
by a killer in a ghostface Halloween costume. She inevitably is killed (but
not before getting her clothes torn off and given the opportunity to strike
some tantalizing poses while in the midst of her yard sprinkler; getting her
breast implant stabbed out; and getting hit by her dad's car while he is
receiving roadhead from her mother). If this already doesn't sound like your
cup of tea, I hasten to add that this opener is only a relative taste of far
raunchier things to come in the next 80 minutes.
The next morning, rumors are abuzz at B.A. Corpse High School, where the
innocent virgin Cindy (Anna Faris) suspects the murder is related to a man
she and her friends, including her boyfriend Bobby (Jon Abrahams); closeted
football player Ray (Shawn Wayans) and his sassy girlfriend Brenda (Regina
Hall); hunky Greg (Lochlyn Munro); and his lover, the snotty sex-on-legs
Buffy (Shannon Elizabeth), accidentally hit with their car and dumped in the
lake a year before, on Halloween. Soon, the six students are receiving
threatening notes and being slaughtered one at a time, by someone who knows
what they did. Also getting in on the action is cutthroat bitch reporter Gail
Hailstorm (Cheri Oteri), who will go to any lengths to get her story, and
Deputy Doofy (Dave Sheridan), Buffy's retarded brother.
The less you know going into "Scary Movie," the more unexpected and humorous
it will undoubtedly be, so to discuss many of the brighter moments would be
unfair. Suffice to say, if ever there was a movie that proves how unjustified
the MPAA actually is, it is "Scary Movie." With no less than three scenes
showing the male organ (one of which portrays it erect), and an unstoppable
barrage of equally naughty behavior and images (does an "orgasmic explosion"
mean anything to you?), the film has somehow passed as an R-rating, when much
less extreme films have received (1998's "Orgazmo," 1995's "Showgirls") or
been wrongfully threatened (1999's "Eyes Wide Shut") with an NC-17. Alas,
"Scary Movie" turns out to, indeed, be scary--scary that director Keenen
Ivory Wayans and screenwriters Shawn Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Buddy Johnson,
Phil Beauman, Jason Friedberg, and Aaron Seltzer (whew!) had the courage to
write such un-PC, potentially offensive material. That there are six writers
involved in the film is usually a negative sign, but not this time.
Apparently, all six had some really slam-bang, witty ideas and they morphed
them all together into a sure-to-be-classic whole.
The whole cast of "Scary Movie" keep straight faces throughout, which is the
right way to go. By making everything seem serious and real, it only proves
more funny for the audience watching it. And if the sold-out audience whom I
saw it with is any indication, there is going to be major repeat business
just to catch all of the jokes that were easily missed the first time around,
in part due to the loud, infectious laughter that swept over everyone.
The token virginal heroine, Cindy, is played by newcomer Anna Faris, and her
delicious, likable turn is as good as it possibly could have been. Also
taking advantage of the chance to test out their comedic skills are Shawn and
Marlon Wayans; the delightful Regina Hall (1999's "The Best Man"), as
loudmouth Brenda, who gets her much deserved comeuppance in one of the
picture's best scenes, when she causes an uproar at the local movie theater
showing "Shakespeare in Love;" Shannon Elizabeth (1999's "American Pie"), who
is distraught that her boyfriend is killed until she learns she has just won
the town's beauty pageant as Miss Fellatio; and Dave Sheridan and the sadly
underused Cheri Oteri (TV's "Saturday Night Live"), as Deputy Doofy and Gail
Hailstorm, obvious takes on the David Arquette and Courteney Cox Arquette
characters in the "Scream" movies.
"Scary Movie" is never anything less than silly, but amidst it all are some
fairly knowing moments of social commentary, including material on race
relations, homosexuality, the portrayal of teenagers in Hollywood movies, as
well as sly truths about teenagers and young adults. After hitting the
unknown man with their car and deciding to do away with the body, Buffy says
to Cindy, "We'll just pretend it never happened. Like the time we were drunk
and went down on each other." It may not be art, but it does have a ring of
honesty to it.
When film parodies work, they really smoke, but it is a particularly tricky
genre in which most attempts fail. For every "Airplane!," there is a "Spy
Hard," a "Wrongfully Accused," and a "Jane Austen's Mafia!," and "Scary
Movie" is one of the very, very few recent ventures that belong in the former
category. If you are in the mood to go to the movies, have a great time and a
lot of big guffaw laughs--oh, and if you aren't faint of heart--it would be
absolutely foolish to pass up "Scary Movie."
Copyright © 2000 Dustin Putman