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Scary Movie 4
Given the job to take care of an old mute woman, Cindy Campbell (Anna Faris) finds there's a little ghostly kid haunting the house, leaving mysterious clues behind. Living next door is Tom Ryan (Craig Bierko), a shipyard crane operator who is stuck taking care of his kids for the weekend – the same weekend aliens attack. Teaming up to find the source of this madness, Cindy and Tom encounter grudges, villages, million dollar babies, and a couple of gay cowboys as they trek across the countryside.
Ever since director David Zucker ("Airplane!") took over the "Scary Movie" franchise from the Wayans Brothers, the films have been improved greatly. While these films aren't exactly rocket science, they have a simplistic formula that defies true criticism and drills into the primal need to chortle at someone getting conked on the head with a random object. Like the third installment, Zucker is barely concerned with such cinema staples as consistency and restraint; "Scary 4" is another bullet train to laughs, and it succeeds more than it fails, which is about as good as it gets in the parody genre.
If "Scary 3" was showing signs of fatigue looking for spoofs of horror films, this latest installment calls off the search entirely. "The Grudge" is basically the only scary movie to be thoroughly raked over the coals, with "Saw" coming in a distant second. It's tough not to notice that these films are essentially already parodies of their genre, but that's just stinkin' thinkin'. Zucker and his team of screenwriters simply want to slap these movies around: pitting Dr. Phil and Shaq against each other in a familiar bathroom set, watching scribbled blood-soaked clues on a wall form a helpful Yahoo map for Cindy, observing Charlie Sheen trying to commit apartment high-rise suicide after spending the night with three playmates, and having Cindy's friend Brenda (Regina Hall) make out with the iconic tricycle-riding puppet from "Saw."
The other half of the movie is devoted to a lengthy "War of the Worlds" recreation, and this is the material that scores the most chuckles. Escaping the towering tri-pods (that erupt from the ground in a huge iPod case), Bierko does a mighty fine Tom Cruise impression (even covering the actor's wild Oprah appearance for the finale), and "Worlds" hands Zucker more opportunities to locate scenes to make fun of, including a fantastic running gag that emphasizes just how bad a father Tom truly is.
The random grab-bag of jokes eventually spills over to "Brokeback Mountain," "The Village," and most curiously, "Million Dollar Baby" (remember when Hilary Swank broke her neck? Imagine the whole arena having the same accident). Truthfully, there's nothing really satiric about the humor or the targets; they're just bookmarks that allow Zucker to work in ways for his cast to endure more cranial trauma or, in the case of Carmen Electra, complete bowel humiliation. Between these lowbrow, easy lay sequences are some truly funny parodies (Zucker gets good mileage out of "The Village") and throwaway gags, almost always belonging to Faris. This is her fourth "Scary" outing, and she's been the consistent highlight of the franchise. Without her bubble gum attitude and complete conviction with all this nonsense, these films would be lost.
Nothing here is red carpet, admirable entertainment, but compared to last February's bottom-feeding knockoff, "Date Movie," the self-assured "Scary Movie 4" looks like "The 400 Blows."