by Greg Muskewitz
If it’s true that you lose calories from laughing, Jenny Craig should implement the repeated viewing of “Scary Movie” into the patients’ diets. It seems that one of the latest clichés when emphasizing how funny a comedy is, is to compare it to “There’s Something About Mary” (which critics lazily dropped down to “Something About Mary” and then plainly to “Mary”), but I honestly have not laughed so hard, so often since “There’s Something About Mary.” But the thing is, “Scary Movie” goes beyond that; its hilarity outdoes the former by miles of laughter, by streaming tears, by breaths and by shortness of oxygen.I don’t even know where to begin with “Scary Movie.” Adopting the original title that then gave way to “Scream” and its successors, “Scary Movie” is a no-holds-barred parody of the movies already parodying the dragged-to-death horror genre. Now while the “Scream” series was intent on redefining and poking fun at, what Kevin Williamson did nearly single-handedly, was to resuscitate the craze for teen horror flicks. While he started it in all fun, he too ended up taking himself too seriously with his script for “I Know What You Did Last Summer” and his direction of “Teaching Mrs. Tingle.” But the Wayans Brothers claim no such knowledge of seriousness, and along with a gang of other writers, put the thriving genre back in its place.
"It screams modern classic."
If you’re not up-to-date on all of the teen horror movies, chances are you’ll end up missing the majority of the references. “Scary Movie” lifts the main framework of the first “Scream” while bonding it with a lot of “I Know What…” as well. After a spoof of the open-sequence of “Scream” where Drew Barrymore is brutally murdered, in which Carmen Electra plays “Drew Decker” (Barrymore’s surname in the movie) —“What’s your favorite scary movie?”/ “Umm…that genie movie, with Shaq”/ “‘Kazaam?’ That’s not a scary movie”/ “Well, you haven’t seen Shaq act” — we meet our main female protagonist Cindy Campbell (Anna Faris) — a twist on Neve Campbell’s “Sidney Prescott.”
Cindy has a core group of six friends — Bobby (Jon Abrahams), her horny boyfriend; Brenda (Regina Hall), the “sistah” of the group, who is Ray’s (Shawn Wayans) girlfriend, though most would suggest his sexuality isn’t hetero; Brenda’s constantly-stoned brother Shorty (Marlon Wayans); Buffy (Shannon Elizabeth) and her boyfriend Greg (Lochlyn Munro). The other two main characters are Doofy (Dave Sheridan), Buffy’s retarded brother, and TV reporter Gail Hailstorm (Cheri Oteri, to Courtney Cox’s “Gale Weathers”).
Similarly, a masked killer is in pursuit of the majority of these teens, but the closure of the identity is hardly the motivation here, but rather, how many movies can they set on fire? We get “Scream 2” and “Scream 3,” some of “I Still Know…,” “The Matrix,” “American Pie,” “Dawson’s Creek,” “Lord of the Dance,” “The Blair Witch Project,” “Final Destination,” the “Wassssup???!!!” commercial and plenty more. It takes the chance of pushing the limits, going for totally gross, going for broke. “Scary Movie” takes hostages, and molests, traumatizes, and destructs them. Although there are six writers (Shawn and Marlon, Buddy Johnson, Phil Beauman, Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer), it almost makes me wonder if each person was assigned a certain movie to script a send-up of, and place among the rest of the framework. And even though it goes for the penis (instead of the jugular), it’s clever, witty, creative, unexpected, but most importantly, hilarious! I have been looking forward to no movie like I have this one since I originally saw the preview during the screening of “Road Trip.” Never would I have expected a preview that made me laugh that much to have a movie that could constantly and incessantly keep up that level of laughter and outrageousness. The actors are all so well plucked and placed, performed and parodied, it is the best summer gift I could have ever asked for.
“Scary Movie” is probably the closest comedy to rival my favorite all-time comedy “Hairspray.” I caught two press screenings of this, and during my second viewing, there was not any less enthusiasm on my part. I laughed just as hard, just as often, if not harder and more often. It’s a comedy that increases with each viewing. Yes, it’s raunchy. Yes, it’s offensive. Yes, it’s grosser than you’ll expect (how it got away without an NC-17 is beyond me, but who cares!), but it’s a perfect combination of them all. Just writing about it brings back some of the most beloved movie-experiences of my times so far. I’d love to ramble on about each little individual gag and in-joke, but there are too many, and to see them for yourself is the greatest service you can provide yourself with. But to select and remove a couple scenes which left me on the floor, I submit the following (in no particular order): Bobby’s comeuppance in the bedroom, Cindy’s conference with Miss Mann, Ray’s ear-tickler, Brenda’s show in the theater, etc. I could go on and on. Any scene featuring Faris, who is grossly ignored in the film’s publicity, is of utmost vast amusement and whimsicality. “Scary Movie” is deemed to go down in the books (if no one else’s, definitely mine!) as a seminal classic. I won’t deny it, I love this movie. It’s too funny (understatement) to pass up.
One of the other delights that this brought my way was the introduction to Anna Faris, the cute-as-a-button heroine who’s a bit ravished by all that’s occurring around her. Faris, in addition to her adorable looks, has wonderful comedic timing, a great over-the-top delivery, and a similar no-holds-barred attitude to spoofing everything under the sun. She’s a wonderful talent and I hope to see far more of her soon. Oteri is one of the world’s gifts to comedy, and if you think you’ve seen her tear it up on “Saturday Night Live,” you’ve got another thing coming to you here. Hall knows how to turn it up and turn it on, and her hilarious caricature is one of the best carved. Meanwhile, Shawn and Marlon, along with their brother Keenen Ivory who’s directing, honor no packs with any of the people or filmmakers whose work they have reduced to putty. Keenen Ivory, who helps stretch all of the gags as far as they go, shows a strong competence on how to make what’s funny on paper, twenty times funnier on the screen, which is such a rare feat these days. If you skip “Scary Movie,” you will be mightily disappointed. There’s nothing funnier than this in any theater now, and you’d have to go years back to match it.
By the way — yes, Miss Mann, a/k/a Jayne Trcka, really is a she!
With Dan Joffre, Mark McConchie, Andrea Nemeth, Kurt Fuller, David L. Lander and a cameo by Keenen Ivory Wayans.
Postscript, opening release: I went to see this again the Friday it opened. And still, it has not lost any of the humor, or decreased in any manor, the amount of laughs. It is still a snow-ball, amassing more and more each time. I can’t seem to get tired of this. I’ve still missed numerous lines of dialogue over the uncontrollable laughter from myself and others as it carries over into the next scene, or when the characters continue talking.
Postscript, video release: I was fortunate enough to receive a screener copy of “Scary Movie.” In addition to the three times I saw it in the theater, I have watched it on video at least five times so far, and have still to find myself tired of it. No matter how many times I see it and may know what’s coming next, it still captures me the same way as the first time. At least now I have been able to hear what some of the lost dialogue was.Final Verdict: A.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=1796&reviewer=172
originally posted: 07/05/01 14:36:44