When “Scary Movie” was first released on DVD, John J. Puccio wrote in his review that “most of its gags are outrageously stupid, vulgar, and unfunny.”
I laughed a lot more than John apparently did.
Though a brilliant 1080p picture doesn’t make the gags any smarter and the parody isn’t honed any sharper by Blu-ray technology, “Scary Movie” remains, for me, one of those dumb films that makes you laugh in spite of yourself . . . or itself. Somebody’s self.
I guess it all boils down to a single question: How much do you like the Wayans brothers? Or in this case, how much do you like the Zucker brothers and Jim Abrahams? If you didn’t see the Wayans onscreen, you’d be hard-pressed not to think this came from the same zany guys who gave us “Airplane!” and “The Naked Gun.” Many of the gags are unabashedly reminiscent of those films. Clearly, the Wayans swiped and studied the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker playbook, giving us the same rapid-fire succession of jokes, as well as those trademark gags that expand the way water ripples outward when a pebble is dropped into it. Make that a brick.
Example? In “Scary Movie,” as a young woman runs up a staircase in an attempt to escape the killer, she picks up a vase and tosses it at him . . . then a bicycle that’s conveniently two-thirds of the way up the stairs, then a man (“Grandpa!” she says, before pushing him down the stairs), and finally an upright piano that she finds at the top. Subtlety is not a part of this brand of humor, nor is intelligence–except, of course, as cleverness is required to articulate the elements of teen-slasher films that are either silly in and of themselves, or else so define the genre that they’re pretty much asking for it.
The Wayans brothers go even further with Wes Craven’s postmodern, self-aware take on the genre, giving us a full-blown parody of Craven’s “Scream” and a pretty bad-but-typical example of the teen-slasher pic, “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” starring Jennifer Love Hewitt (sneeringly referred to in this film as “Jennifer Love Hugetits”). Yep, there’s that kind of humor, along with a full quotient of crass bodily function and sex jokes (as when a killer stabs Carmen Elektra’s character and when his knife comes out, it has a silicone implant on it). Other times, the Wayans break the fourth wall and have their characters do such things as run into the camera, or they’ll show a film crew in the corner of a scene. Along the way, the Brothers also parody pop culture, poking fun of everything from Budweiser commercials and “Titanic” to beauty pageants (contestants sport ribbons that say such things as “Miss Fellatio” and “Miss Thing”).
This group of “teens” fits the genre to a T. Anna Faris does a fine job as the virginal Cindy, whose longsuffering boyfriend Bobby Prinze (named for one of the stars of “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” and played by Jon Abrahams) is as patient as Cindy seems clueless. There’s always the bimbo who’s sexy and just as worried about breaking a nail as she is breaking a sweat, and that part of Buffy is played here by Shannon Elizabeth. Then there’s the “sista” (Regina Hall) and her smoke-addled brother, Shorty (Marlon Wayans), and Brenda’s boyfriend (Shawn Wayans), who seems more attentive to other guys than he is to her.
I won’t disagree with John that some of the gags go beyond tasteless, as when one of the teens is killed via a rigid penis poking out of a “glory hole,” or a bunch of moviegoers think it’s the Ides of March and collectively stab a woman who won’t stop yakking. It’s hard to laugh when you’re sitting there stunned. Same with a gym teacher named Miss Mann, who has us gasp rather than laugh when she stands and the longest-hanging pair of testicles drops out of her shorts. Or a head that keeps yakking after it’s cut off. But such gross misfires (pun intended) occur less than 20 percent of the time.
Though there’s not much plot or character development–really, there’s just enough to give some structure to this collection of gags–the Wayans do a fairly clever job of integrating the plot from “I Know What You Did Last Summer” (where the body of a stranger that partying teens hit with their car and dump into the sea comes back to haunt them) and “Scream” (where a masked killer is offing a group of teens one-by-one), with the reporter from “Scream” played here (to excess, of course) by Cheri Oteri, and David Arquette’s Deputy Dewey morphing here into a slow-witted “honorary” deputy named Doofy (Dave Sheridan).
Cameos also shape the humor, with James Van Der Beek climbing through the window to peer at the virginal Cindy, who’s got to remind him of the good-girl (Katie Holmes) he played opposite on “Dawson’s Creek,” while the principal is Mr. Squiggy (David L. Lander) from “Laverne & Shirley,” playfully reinforced by the Shotz Beer sign on the principal’s wall.
The picture looks great in Blu-ray, with vivid colors and plenty of sharp detail. Black levels are also strong enough to where dimly lit or night scenes don’t just turn to mud. Nice quality transfer.
The English PCM 5.1 uncompressed (48 kHz/16 bit) sound is strong and full-bodied, with nice use of rear effects speakers and a good spread across the front speakers. Additional options are English and French Dolby Digital 5.1, and a Spanish 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo, with subtitles in English SDH, French, and Spanish. Bonus features have 2.0 Stereo sound with English, French and Spanish subtitle options.
Oh my! If you thought some of the scenes in the film were crudely funny, check out the deleted scenes here. Some of them are SO crass but SO funny you’ll wonder why they weren’t inserted into the film. Of the six, I thought that “Hop-a-Long Shorty” was the most hilarious. Aside from the trailer, the only other feature is a short behind-the-scenes number that shows the brothers on camera talking it up (and defending their film). The most interesting thing to come out of this is Marlon and Shawn’s comments about big brother Keenen, who directed the film and apparently has the last word in ALL aspects of the filmmaking process, writing included.
It’s pretty hard to parody a tasteless genre and not be tasteless, so I can’t fault the Wayans for those gags that go so far overboard they’re sleeping with the fishes. If the goal of a comedy is to make people laugh, and you find yourself laughing most of the time, that’s a pretty good measure of the film’s success. Is it gross? Yes. Is it tasteless? Yes. And you can say the very same thing about the films that “Scary Movie” parodies.