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Be very afraid: Avoid unfunny 'Scary Movie'

July 10, 2000
Web posted at: 11:47 a.m. EDT (1547 GMT)

In this story:

A killer afoot

Sibling revelry


(CNN) -- Leave it to those inexplicably famous purveyors of nothing much at all, the Wayans brothers, to parody something that's already a parody.

"Scary Movie," a takeoff on the recent slasher film revival, is about as inventive as its generic title suggests. Big brother Keenan Ivory Wayans is behind the camera this time, with nonentities Shawn and Marlon delivering a string of adolescent gags that should go over like gangbusters with eighth graders around the country.

You can't really fault the brothers for acting stupid. That's how these things work. "Airplane!" (1980), for instance, is nothing if not idiotic. It's very funny, though, due to heroically nutty wordplay, dead-on casting, and the inventive tweaking of genre conventions. You stay with it because the course of attack changes from moment to moment - and from character to character - while moving the ridiculous story forward.

The Wayans brothers, on the other hand, dispatch a killer, introduce a bunch of purposefully long-in-the-tooth "teens," then spend most of the film making flat references to dope smoking, oral sex, farting, and homosexuality.

You expect dull spots in this kind of movie. There are so many jokes coming at you, you quickly forget the duds and wait for the next one. But "Scary Movie" bats about .150, and several of the hits could easily be scored as errors.

A killer afoot

In the opening scene, taut-skinned Barbie doll Carmen Electra riffs on Drew Barrymore's role in "Scream." She receives a flirtatious phone call from the murderer, and is soon fleeing from him in her skimpy underwear. When the killer stabs her to death, he gets weirded-out by the bloody implant that ends up dangling from his knife. The fact that this scene is making fun of slasher-flick misogyny doesn't make it any less misogynistic. It's a surprisingly nasty joke to kick off such a silly movie.

The teens at B.A. Corpse High - and that's one of the imaginative gags - are afraid that a killer is out to get them.

Anna Faris plays Cindy, the virginal student who somehow survives while her sexually active classmates are being butchered by the murderer. She breaks wind in a bathtub. Bobby (Jon Abrahams), wants nothing more than to have sex with Cindy. When he finally does, her pubic hair, for no apparent reason, is as big as an Afro. Buffy (Shannon Elizabeth) is the big-breasted vixen who wins the Miss Fellatio title at the school beauty pageant.

Sibling revelry


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Ray (Shawn Wayans) is the football star who's obviously a closeted homosexual. Bring along a calculator to count how many times he makes gay comments that cause his friends to raise their eyebrows.

Brother Marlon plays Shorty, a pot-smoking pot smoker who smokes pot and smokes pot. And he makes jokes about smoking pot while he does it. Pretty creative, huh?

Marlon is to the Wayans brothers what Zeppo was to the Marx brothers, except that there were three geniuses among the Marxes to camouflage Zeppo's general lack of ability. Marlon can't do anything, or at least nothing that's fun to watch. His acting technique consists of school-yard mugging and an unconvincing cackle. You can see him anticipating his next wisecrack during a scene, as if everybody else's dialogue is something to be withstood until he can stick his tongue out and jump around again. An Oscar is unlikely.

A sure sign that there's not much to play with here is that "Scary Movie" is loaded with allusions to non-slasher popular culture. It's gotten to the point where duller audience members will laugh at the strange sensation of actually recognizing a reference. Who cares if it's not even remotely funny?

When the killer gets on the phone with Marlon, he and his buddies go through the "Whazzzzup?!" routine from that annoying collect-call TV commercial, the same one that's been getting milked by late-night talk shows for the past several months. There's also a devastating moment when a would-be victim attacks the killer in stop-action "bullet motion," just like Keanu Reeves did in "The Matrix" (1999.)

These gags are hardly the height of inspiration, but it could be that people laugh at them because they're not as pathetic as a character having a penis jabbed through his head like an ice pick. You also get to see that, in case you were wondering.

Much of the humor in "Scary Movie" is plain old vulgar. There's a sex scene in which a girl is blasted against the ceiling by her boyfriend's orgasm. A manly-but-female gym teacher has dangling testicles and likes to sniff dirty shorts. Fans of passing gas, profanity, oral copulation sight gags, and bloody murders will go home happy, if not ecstatic. Look for "Saturday Night Live"'s Cheri Oteri, performing far below her station. Rated R. 88 minutes.

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Scary Movie

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