SCARY MOVIE 4 - HD DVD review

There comes a time when something gets quite stale and that time has long passed for the "Scary Movie" franchise.

DeanWink

"Please. Just let the madness stop. Please don't let the bad man hurt me anymore."

I'm not sure if I actually cried out these few sentences after watching "Scary Movie 4," but I'm sure the thoughts were running around in the back of my mind. With Director David Zucker re-upping for his second stab at the long running franchise known for spoofing current horror films and working once again with his longtime collaborator, writer Jim Abrahams, one would expect possibly good things from "Scary Movie 4." Based upon characters developed by the Wayans brothers, the "Scary Movie" franchise is still finding financial success at the box office, but there comes a time when everything must die. Let us hope and prey that the Cindy Campbell character (Anna Faris) finds closure in the upcoming fifth film and Zucker stops hurting us with the unoriginal and uninspired spoofs.

This list of films and events spoofed by includes far more than horror films from the past three years. In "Scary Movie 4," it seems that Zucker and Abrahams find as much horror in award winning dramas as they do genre staples that keep producing material for them to spoof. "Brokeback Mountain" and "Million Dollar Baby" are heavily spoofed in the film and some would wonder how that exactly makes for a "Scary Movie." Horror films that find themselves mimicked include "Saw," "The Village," "War of the Worlds," and "The Grudge." Of course, what would a slapstick comedy be without a look at Tom Cruise's now infamous couch jumping segment on the "Oprah Winfrey Show." I guess when you are struggling to come up with something original and funny, it is okay to just continue on poking fun of a joke that has become tired after everybody else has beaten to death. That is the underlying problem with "Scary Movie 4," it is just so tired.

Poor hapless Cindy finds herself looking for a new job and a new life after surviving the horrific events of the first three films. She is hired by Mr. Koji (Henry Mah) to take care of a catatonic older woman, Mrs. Norris (Cloris Leachman). If you've seen "The Grudge," you know where the story can go. Her neighbor is Tom Ryan (Craig Bierko) a crane operator at the local docks. His marriage is finished and he has weekend custody over his disgruntled children. One day, evil Tripods attack and blast Eighties music and death rays over much of the city and Tom and Cindy are set off on separate crusades to save the world. President Harris (Leslie Nielsen) would rather sit and listen to a children's book about ducks than spring to action and it seems that the answer to the invasion by the tripods may lie in a secluded village run by Henry Hale (Bill Pullman). There are a bunch of other characters, but they exist mainly to supply spoof fodder and not progress the poorly written storyline.

Many notable actors and personalities find themselves appearing in this film. The film's best segment is its opening scene where Dr. Phil and Shaquille O'Neil are chained by the ankle in a dirty and grimey bathroom and offer a nice parody of "Saw." Somehow, they talked Michael Madsen to appear and the actor is horribly underutilized in the role that Tim Robbins possessed in "War of the Worlds." James Earl Jones shows up to provide a final narration. What is he doing here? Rappers Lil' Jon and Chingy appear for brief moments. Why, Lil' Jon, why? Charlie Sheen appears for just a brief and disturbing scene in the film's opening. He has worked with Zucker and Abrahams before and I can see why he'd be loyal to them, but he deserved better in his scene. With the great talent assembled more, "Scary Movie 4" feels like an injustice to Hollywood.

The first couple "Scary Movies" were very funny. The Wayans brothers created clever parodies that went a little too far at times, but were slick and comical. They stepped aside after making the first two and David Zucker stepped in. Instead of starting fresh, Zucker has tried to make do with many of the characters from the first films. He has also carried over many of the gags and laughs. These films have become stale and uninspired. The series could use a reboot and a whole new set of laughs. Is Zucker out of touch with pop culture? How many Michael Jackson jokes are going to be in these movies? I look back at "Airplane!" and the greatness of the "Naked Gun" series and have fond memories of what Zucker and Abrahams are capable of. They need to stop keeping somebody else's creations on life support and do their own thing. If they want to keep this franchise running, why not do something new with it. Let Frank Drebin investigate paranormal activity. It has gotten tired and I don't think I can sit through a fifth film. Please, let the madness stop!

Video:
"Scary Movie 4" is the first offering I have had the chance to review from Genius Products. I am not sure on how the Weinstein brothers and Buena Vista have come to terms on selling and marketing the Mirimax and Dimension films to HD-DVD, as Buena Vista is releasing only on Blu-Ray, but this is a Mirimax film and has found its way to the HD-DVD format. Genius Products have seen fit to release "Scary Movie 4" in an MPEG-4 / 1080p transfer that preserves the 1.85:1 aspect ratio of the theatrical release. Overall, the visual presentation of the film is very good. I did notice two stutters in the playback. The first occurred when Dr. Phil was talking to Shaq and the second took place about an hour into the film. Both times, the stutter could not be replicated on a second play through. I'm not sure if this is a fault with the Toshiba HD-A1 reproducing the MPEG-4 compressed video or perhaps a speck of dust.

This is a very colorful film that features a solid amount of detail and holds up consistently throughout the full running time. Colors are well saturated and at times appear almost too colorful. Reds and greens especially seem to almost jump out of the frame when compared to other colors currently on-screen. With more than a couple dark sequences, the black levels hold up rather nicely. The Michael Madsen scene and surrounding sequences rely on heavy shadow detail and the transfer holds up admirably. The film was shot on high definition cameras and the image is flawless, which is to be expected when being transferred from a digital source. Aside from some very minor color bleeding on rare occasions on a red cloak, I didn't see too many flaws. The level of detail is quite good. It doesn't approach that of the very best HD-DVD releases, but it certainly will not disappoint.

Sound:
Genius Products lists the soundtracks as simply English 5.1 or French 5.1 audio. These two tracks are both Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 multi-channel surround. "Scary Movie 4" is not a particularly powerful sounding film and since the primary focus is on comedy and not frights, there is hardly any creepy atmospheric sounds or deep and foreboding bass. Much of the film is based upon dialogue and fortunately, this is handled pretty nicely by the HD-DVD mastering. Unfortunately, one of the primary films spoofed by Zucker and company in this forth film in the franchise is "War of the Worlds" and one would expect some hard hitting and powerful sounds to match with the special effects visuals. One particular scene where the tripods first start vaporizing folks does sound pretty strong and is aggressive, but aside from this initial moment, the soundtrack becomes quite tame and uneventful.

Extras:
While "Scary Movie 4" may not be a particularly entertaining film, the HD-DVD tries its damndest to make things entertaining for unsuspecting consumers. It does so by including a few very comical and well done supplements. Where Zucker has gone wrong by not making the film itself entertaining, he manages to do so frequently through the supplements. The Feature Commentary with the Filmmakers features David Zucker and the film's producers, Robert Weis and Craig Mazin. The trio get into some details about the film they parody and the actual making of "Scary Movie 4." They share a few laughs and I think the commentary is funnier than the film at certain times. While selecting the commentary, I did notice the very nice menus done by Genius Products. They are graphical overlays that look very good and show how nice an HD-DVD menu can look and these may be the niftiest menus yet.

The Scary Truth: A Conversation with the Filmmakers of Scary Movie 3 & 4 runs for just over thirty five minutes and features Zucker and his two producers discussing their involvement and experiences making the two films. The three try their hardest to not take the interview or themselves seriously and this is easily one of the more humorous interviews you will ever have the privy of witnessing. Fifteen Deleted and Extended Scenes (13:39) are provided and feature the threesome with an optional commentary track. A few are alternate takes, while others are deleted scenes that are a result of changing plotlines and such. One particular scene involves the shoving of a solenoid up the arse of a police horse. Aside from this, the scenes are best enjoyed with the commentary track.

A few smaller supplements add more value to the HD-DVD. Bloopers (6:59) are a collection of semi-enjoyable flubs from the making of the film. You get more Shaq here for fans of the big guy. The Man Behind the Laugh (Director – David Zucker) (3:42) takes a look at the comic genius of David Zucker and why actors enjoy working with the veteran comedic director. Though a bit short, it gives a good look at Zucker's personality and features Leslie Nielsen and others chiming in on Zucker. The man loves to laugh. Zany Spoof Humor – Zucker Style (2:51) is another short featurettes looking at David Zucker. An Interviewer's Worst Nightmare (4:51) takes a look at how the cast was asked to be problematic for a person assigned to make the EPK. This was quite unfunny to watch and wonders where they were hoping to go with this.

The fun continues with a few more typical EPK featurettes The Visual Effects of Scary Movie 4 (8:30) and believe it or not, but there were real visual effects created for the film by a company called Entityfx. The Cast looks at the large ensemble cast that puts forth their efforts to continue on with the franchise. The Improvisation of Craig Bierko (7:07) looks at his Oprah parody and how he improvised the scene. Moving on, Youngbloodz (3:22) and Rappers…Actors (2:34) take a look at the various rappers involved in the production of "Scary Movie 4." There are some nice Lil Jon moments in here. Yeah! Finally, the Theatrical Trailer completes the nice list of features included to make purchasing this disc more worthwhile.

Closing Comments:
I didn't really enjoy "Scary Movie 4," which is unfortunate because I typically love the work of David Zucker. There comes a time when something gets quite stale and that time has long passed for the "Scary Movie" franchise. If Zucker is going to continue on with making these films, he needs to shake up the formula and get things moving in a different direction. There are a couple good laughs and it was great to see Leslie Nielsen on-screen, but I can't say this is a particularly funny picture. The video quality is pretty good, though the sound borders on being just adequate. However, the supplements included on the HD-DVD disc are quite good and for fans of David Zucker, this makes this HD-DVD almost a must-own, as much of the supplements revolve around the director and his unique humor. I had high hopes for this film and they were dashed quickly. I did like the bonus materials though. As Lil Jon would say, this film rates just: "Okay!!!"

Ratings

Video
8
Audio
6
Extras
9
Film Value
4