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Scary Movie

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Scary Movie

Starring: Shannon Elizabeth, Cheri Oteri
Director: Keenan Ivory Wayans
Rated: R
RunTime: 88 Minutes
Release Date: July 2000
Genres: Comedy, Horror

*Also starring: Anna Faris, Dave Sheridan, Lil' Kim, Jonathan Abrahams, Keenen Ivory Wayans, Shawn Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Carmen Electra

Review by Edward Johnson-Ott
3 stars out of 4

How raunchy is "Scary Movie?" Director Keenan Ivory Wayans held a private screening of the comedy and, when the camera got up close and personal with a high school girls' gym teacher, his own parents walked out of the theater. They won't be the only ones. The spoof of teen slasher flicks pushes the R-rating envelope further than any other film to date, including "South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut." Make no mistake, "Scary Movie" is unbelievably gross and juvenile. It's also the funniest thing I've seen since the Farrelly brothers' "There's Something About Mary."

A love-it-or-hate-it film, "Scary Movie" will likely provoke a slew of "how low can we go?" articles from self-appointed social guardians. Already, several early reviewers have had conniption fits over the film's graphic sexual imagery. Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke. For all of our freewheeling posturing, the United States remains painfully squeamish about carnal matters. It's part of the lingering fallout from peer pressure exacted by the Puritans on neighboring communities over 200 years ago, which resulted in our collective "sex is great as long as you feel terrible about it afterwards" mentality. Many years ago, at a Caribbean cultural festival, a gorgeous Haitian fire dancer summed up our national mindset beautifully when she said to me, "America is such a constipated country."

For 88 sidesplitting minutes, Keenan Ivory Wayans takes the sexual images that make us squirmy and rubs them in our faces, one-upping the Farrellys along the way. Did the "buns and wieners" scene in "There's Something About Mary" make you wince? Keenan gives us an erect penis used as a lethal weapon. And where "Mary" featured the legendary "hair-gel" scene, "Scary Movie" offers a geyser of semen.

Utilizing the scattershot comedy approach that filmmakers have tried to replicate (usually without success) since "Airplane," the story is a take-off of "Scream," meshed with "I Know What You Did Last Summer." Somebody dressed up in a ghost-face costume is murdering teenagers and stalking four kids who accidentally killed a man on a dark highway a year earlier. The most memorable scenes from both movies get spoofed here, along with loads of other films, including "The Exorcist" and "The Usual Suspects." Wayans and company even manage successful send-ups of "The Matrix" and "The Blair Witch Project," two films that have been parodied to death.

"Scream" honey bunnies Courteney Cox Arquette and David Arquette receive special attention. In a lively performance, "Saturday Night Live's" Cheri Oteri tweaks Gale Weathers, Courteney Cox Arquette's take-no-prisoners newscaster character, as Gail Hailstorm (hey, I never said the writing was sophisticated), author of the hit exploitation book, "You're Dead, I'm Rich." Dave Sheridan tackles David Arquette's Deputy Dewey, along with the actor's real-life goofball persona, as Doofy, a drooling idiot with a paper star pinned to his chest. Doofy, incidentally, is the creepiest element in the production, playing too much like a mean-spirited mockery of a retarded person.

Most of the cast does solid work, primarily because the filmmakers remembered the most important lesson from "Airplane": Actors in spoofs aren't funny unless they play it straight. Kurt Fuller adopts a riotous deadpan as the local sheriff (at a press conference, he solemnly intones "The killing of these teenagers is tragic, but, you know, shit happens") and Anna Faris, in the Neve Campbell spot, creates the film's most well rounded character.

The slapdash production, while extremely funny overall, contains some missteps. Lochlyn Munro, whose turn as a lunatic student in "Dead Man on Campus" was the one great note in an otherwise leaden movie, disappears early in the story. A running joke about a barely closeted gay football star (Shawn Wayans) is beaten into the ground. And, on several occasions, the filmmakers merely recreate scenes from slasher films without bothering to enhance them.

Still, the laughs come fast and furious, with Wayans tackling everything from "Riverdance" to race relations (when the killer comes after Anna, she e-mails the authorities with the message "White woman in trouble!" and a slew of police cars show up in seconds). As with "Airplane," "Scary Movie" lobs dozens of jokes at the wall and, while some fall to the floor, most of them stick. That's pretty good for a film SO FOUL, SO DISGUSTING AND SO DEPRAVED THAT IT WILL LIKELY MEAN THE END OF CIVILIZATION AS WE KNOW IT!!!!

Or so I've been told.

Copyright 2000 Edward Johnson-Ott

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