Watching the Scary Movie series evolve over the last few years has been fascinating – what began as full throttle, go-for-broke gross-out comedy has shifted into a more benign, goofy, satirical enterprise; the Wayans brothers were undoubtedly going for the lowest common denominator (how else to explain a character being brutally sodomized by a demonic clown?) but since the Scary Movie franchise has been in the hands of director David Zucker, the last two films in the quadrilogy have functioned as a sweetly inconsequential greatest hits compilation, spoofing the blockbuster flicks of the day, raking in the cash and moving on.
Scary Movie 4 takes aim at a number of pop culture targets, from The Grudge, Million Dollar Baby and Saw (an amusing segment featuring cameos from Dr. Phil McGraw and Shaquille O'Neal) to War of the Worlds, The Village and Brokeback Mountain. As the film opens, series heroine Cindy Campbell (Anna Faris) begins working as a caretaker for the catatonic Mrs. Harris (Cloris Leachman), who lives next door to the downtrodden Tom Ryan (Craig Bierko), struggling to connect with his children. As Tom and Cindy become close, a sudden storm hits their town, bringing with it vicious alien triPods and a chance for Cindy to get away from the tortured soul of a young boy haunting the home of Mrs. Norris. Cindy and Tom must split up to save themselves – Cindy reunites with her old friend Brenda Meeks (Regina Hall) and Tom, along with his kids, hides out with the shotgun-wielding Oliver (Michael Madsen) while the president (Leslie Nielsen, letting it all hang out) works to put an end to the alien crisis.
Faris continues to anchor the series as Cindy Campbell, the lovably clueless blonde who utters loaded double entendres such as "Don't worry, I've taken balls to the face before" with a guile and charm that grounds the film, making each Scary Movie far more enjoyable than they might be otherwise. Zucker is armed with a game cast: Bierko is side-splitting as the not-so-thinly veiled Tom Cruise doppleganger (the climactic "Oprah" spoof is a highlight), while Anthony Anderson, Bill Pullman, Carmen Electra, Madsen, Hall and Nielsen all deliver appropriately over-the-top performances. Aside from breezing by at a brisk 83 minutes (this unrated cut clocks in at 91 minutes, adding eight minutes to the film's run time; nothing popped out at me as noticeably graphic upon this second viewing, although there were a few extended moments here and there; I can't speak as to where all of the additional eight minutes factors in), Scary Movie 4 never once takes itself too seriously, whether it be mercilessly lampooning the Japanese language or taking swipes at blinged-out gangstas. Craig Mazin, Jim Abrahams and Pat Proft's screenplay is a model of narrative economy, serving as a platform for a non-stop fusillade of gags.
Scary Movie 4, in both its theatrical and unrated versions, is a ceaseless goof upon recent films and the pop cultural zeitgeist, delivering subtle laughs as well as broad chuckles. It's lightweight entertainment that provides exactly what it promises: an unironic, farcical romp that will help you pass the time some lazy Saturday night. The DVD
Scary Movie 4: Unrated is presented with a flawless 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, which delivers a dazzlingly crisp and clean picture. Filmed with Panavision's Genesis HD camera, the image is vivid, clearly defined and doesn't boast any visible defects. The Audio:
There are a few instances of surround activity, but for the most part, the included Dolby Digital 5.1 track doesn't get much of a work-out, instead reproducing the dialogue and the score warmly and accurately with no distortion or drop-out. A French Dolby Digital 5.1 track is also included, as are English and Spanish subtitles. The Extras:
A hefty selection of supplemental material is included here, beginning with a commentary track featuring Zucker, producer Robert K. Weiss and writer/producer Craig Mazin. The trio of men discuss the usual topics – how the film came together, working with the assembled actors and generally pithy comments – keeping things light and informative. Fifteen deleted/extended scenes are on board with optional Zucker, Weiss and Mazin commentary, playable separately or together for an aggregate of 13 minutes in non-anamorphic widescreen. Seven minutes of bloopers, presented in non-anamorphic widescreen, are here, as is a three minute, 43 second featurette – "The Man Behind The Laugh (Director David Zucker)" – detailing the infectious Zucker giggle. "Zany Spoof Humor - Zucker Style," is two minutes, 57 seconds exploring Zucker's comedic style, while the bizarre four minute, 57 second featurette "An Interviewer's Worst Nightmare" features EPK bloopers but it's hard to tell if this is a serious or silly segment. The eight minute, 29 second featurette "The Visual Effects of 'Scary Movie 4'" covers precisely what its title promises while "Youngbloodz and the Red Weed," which runs three minutes, 24 seconds, showing the rappers' cameo scene with the two minute, 37 second featurette "Rappers ... Actors" details the cameos from Lil' Jon, Chingy, Fabolous and the aforementioned Youngbloodz and the theatrical trailer rounding out the disc. Final Thoughts:
Scary Movie 4, in both its theatrical and unrated versions, is a ceaseless goof upon recent films and the pop cultural zeitgeist, delivering subtle laughs as well as broad chuckles. It's lightweight entertainment that provides exactly what it promises: an unironic, farcical romp that will help you pass the time some lazy Saturday night. Recommended.