Ever since David Zucker took the reigns on the third feature, the "Scary Movie" franchise has taken a turn for the better. The films aren't going to be Oscar winners, stick to the rule for spoofs: the characters don't know any better - everything's not "wink-wink, nudge-nudge." The films also load in background jokes whenever possible and are certainly better than the weak "Date Movie", which was launched by two writers from the "Scary Movie" franchise.
The fourth film starts off with a parody of "Saw", with Dr. Phil and Shaq imprisoned and having to figure their way out of the puzzle before their doom. This leads to Shaq having trouble when he's required to shoot free-throws and confessions from Dr. Phil ("I'm not even a psychologist, I'm an electrician." It's funny because it's probably true.)
After the opening, we rejoin Cindy Campbell, who has moved into an old woman's haunted house in order to take care of her ("The Grudge"). Next door, Tom Ryan (Craig Bierko, funny and underrated) is (badly) taking care of his kids for the weekend - one of whom keeps getting accidentially injured, while the other one hates him ("War of the Worlds").
When aliens (who take the form of giant IPods - "Tr-Ipods") start attacking, everyone starts fleeing. There's a few minor gags that I liked in this sequence, such as one where when the aliens are arriving, a woman quickly gathers her clothes off the line in her backyard and wonders aloud, "Why don't any of us have dryers?" It's such a little joke, but it just struck me as a very funny little throwaway. There's also a bit about trying to unlock a car door at the same time as the handle's being opened that goes on for an enternity, but gets a laugh.
Shortly after the initial destruction, there's a priceless bit where Brenda (Regina King) - Cindy's best friend - is reintroduced (alive and well) after being killed in the third picture. It's an absurd moment that is played well enough to be one of the film's funnier bits. While Tom and his family try to escape much like "War of the Worlds", Cindy and Brenda find themselves in "The Village" as they try to track down the answer to stopping the aliens.
There are some jokes here that miss or just seem too crude (and I'm not against bathroom humor when done well) for the sake of throwing a fart joke in. It's too bad that these films are now restricted by the PG-13 rating, as they could probably go further in their jabs at some of these films than bathroom jokes if they had an R. The other issue here is the choice of "The Grudge"; while the writers get some gags out of it, it just doesn't seem that spoofable. They find more gags in "War of the Worlds" and a few in "Brokeback Mountain" and "Million Dollar Baby". The film ends with a decent goof on Tom Cruise's "Oprah" appearance. This is the first of the films with some sizable special effects and, amazingly enough, they actually look quite good for a picture operating on what I'm guessing was a mere fraction of the "War of the Worlds" budget.
What success the film does have (and it has enough to be satisfying, although I think that the third installment was able to get more mileage out of "The Ring" than any of the films spoofed here) is, once again, largely thanks to Anna Faris, who once again plays Cindy Campbell as completely clumsy, utterly oblivious and yet sweetly endearing. Bierko also fits right in with the film's style of humor, offering a very funny performance.
Sure enough, there will be a fifth "Scary Movie" coming soon. As long as bad horror movies keep being made (I'm guessing "The Fog" is a potential target for the next film), the "Scary Movie" franchise will likely live on. This DVD edition of "Scary Movie 4" is Unrated, offering 8 more minutes of footage.
VIDEO: "Scary Movie 4" is presented by Weinstein Home Entertainment in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Picture quality is satisfactory, with sharpness and detail remaining solid, if unexceptional throughout the show. Some minor edge enhancement and a couple of trace instances of pixelation are spotted, but the image otherwise remained clean and clear. Colors looked bright and vivid, with nice saturation and no smearing. Flesh tones looked a tad red at times, but usually appeared natural.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation is a little more open and aggressive than the usual "comedy mix", with some instances of surround use for sound effects during some of the "War of the Worlds" sequences. Audio quality was fine, with crisp sound effects and clear, undistorted dialogue.
EXTRAS: Director David Zucker is joined by producer Robert Weiss and writer/producer Craig Mazin on the commentary track. Although this one starts off a tad slowly, the three soon start cracking jokes about the final film (what they think works or doesn't, stories from the set), chatting about what was altered/deleted and occasionally going off on another topic (there's a lot of chatter about "The Simpsons" later in the track.) Overall, it's a fun commentary and certainly worth a listen.
Also included are several minutes of mildly amusing bloopers, 15 deleted scenes (w/commentary - some are deleted, some are alternates and some extensions), two featurettes on the director ("The Man Behind the Laughs" and "Zany Spoof Humor: Zucker Style"), a short piece on the film's visual effects, a strange featurette where the cast tries not to answer the interviewer's questions, two featurettes on the rappers ("Youngbloodz" and "Rappers/Actors") and finally, the film's trailer.
Final Thoughts: I don't think the fourth film is quite as strong as the third, but it still has its moments and offers up another enjoyable performance from Anna Faris. The DVD presentation boasts very nice audio/video quality and a decent helping of supplements. Recommended for fans, others may want to try a rental first.