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Scary Movie 2
Here's a tip for all of you spoof-oriented filmmakers out there in La-La Land - stop for a moment and think through the following truism before you put finger to laptop keyboard: will my movie be "funny" in five years? Ten? Twenty? Will audiences two decades from now get the source of my lampoon, and more importantly, the era and culturally specific jokes I intend to use in my comic vision? Better yet, do yourself a favor and run the end credits of the ZAZ classic Airplane! See that boring old fuddy-duddy sitting in the back of the cab as the fare continues to climb higher and higher? Know who he is, and why his expensive taxi ride is so (supposedly) hilarious? No? Then remember this rule - the minute your material grows dated, it loses all relevancy as wit. It merely becomes a catalog of buried time capsule cons. That's the big problem with something like Scary Movie 2. First, you have to be a fan of the film and/or films being mocked. Then you have to recognize the direct rip-offs and quips being used. Then, and only then, can you legitimately laugh at a movie which borrows liberally from ten years ago without having the slightest notion of how to be timeless. Out of step here means out of fun.
Borrowing liberally from the awful Jan De Bont remake of The Haunting, the Scary Movie sequel finds the survivors of the last film making their way through their first semester of college. Of course, Cindy Campbell (Anna Faris) remains the forever last girl, Brenda Meeks (Regina Hall) is still a smart ass, Ray Wilkins (Shawn Wayans) continues his closeted gay ways, and Shorty Meeks (Marlon Wayans) never met a blunt he couldn't cough his way through. When Professor Oldman (Tim Curry) and his paraplegic assistant, Dwight (David Cross) decide to do some psychological experiments at an old manor home, they naturally need some victims...sorry, subjects. So they call on our foursome, as well as newcomers Alex (Tori Spelling), Tommy (James DeBello), Buddy (Christopher Masterson), and Theo (Kathleen Robertson). Soon, everyone is surrounding by supernatural intrigue as the ghost of Hugh Kane (Richard Moll) is resurrected and terrorizes them all.
Old Nike Ads. Shout outs to food products long since discontinued. References to pop stars already on their fifth stint in rehab (or worse, dead). This is just some of the wicked comic material mined by the Wayans boys (Shawn, Marlon, Craig, and Keene Ivory) along with another four or five screenwriters to turn Scary Movie 2 into a pale imitation of the original. Somewhere back when Wes Craven decided to deconstruct the slasher film, the parodists decides to the same to him. Scary Movie was interesting - especially in its exaggerated use of gross out gags and scatology. By the time the sequel came around, the notion of chomping on the chiller was widened to include all horror films. Thus the Exorcist material at the beginning and the various cinematic references throughout. Gone is Ghostface. In his place is a plethora of possible suspects, many of which follow the standard red herring formula. For their part, the original four survivors all get their moment (the best being Shorty's almost death as a human marijuana joint) while trying to expand on their cardboard cut-out characterizations.
Yet because of the various homages being offered - Charlie's Angels, pseudo Scooby-Doo - we grow confused and weary. Airplane! stayed true to its disaster movie source. Something like Spaceballs took both Wars and Trek for all they were worth. But in the newfangled flip flopping of the post post-modern comedy, one set or setting is not enough. You have to bounce around and brave defeat, less your smug, cynical audience grow antsy. Scary Movie 2 often moves around like a feral rat with its tail on fire. It can't seem to settle down to find a proper rhythm or raison d'être. One moment, it's about the kids in peril. The next, it's arguing for the deadliness of a killer cat. Chris Elliot shows up with a fake deformed hand, while Tim Curry seems to be standing around, waiting to cash his paycheck. We don't particularly have to care for or identify with these individuals. This is a spoof of horror movies after all. Emotion is not easy to come by. But at least the movie should motivate us to pay attention. Scary Movie 2 barely does that.
Why? Because of the incredibly dated material dragged out. Like making jokes at the expense of Howard Jarvis, or stealing a sequence from Skidoo, Scary Movie 2 overdoses on its time period. As a result, the ten years that have passed have pushed it farther and farther out of the loop, wit wise. Instead of relying on anything inventive or novel, they just toss out a reference and keep meandering. The actors try, and deserve extra credit for doing so, but this is really a failure of form. Unless you go broad, you threaten to break your connections with the viewer. A series of jokes about the National Forensics League would fall on the deafest of ears - unless you were involved in high school speech and debate. A gag surrounding the Mayoral race of Waukegan, Illinois will only means something to that populace. Like the latter day "...Movie" series where the talentless hack duo of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer take every bit of current cultural minutia and puree it through their IPod shuffle style of screenwriting, this is a hit or (mostly) miss excuse for entertainment. You can't deny Scary Movie 2's endearing intentions. You can complain about its legitimate lack of lasting laughs.
Given the low budget leanings of a film like this, we expect the flaw enhancing qualities of the HD format to foil Scary Movie 2's attempts at reference quality. We are right. There is grain and stock issues in abundance, and the AVC encoded 1080p 1.78:1 transfer is flat and lifeless. Even in sequences which seem to mimic the lighting and production value of other films, the image here is only so-so. Granted, it's a lot better than a low def DVD, and we do get to see some brighter colors and crisper details, but for the most part, Blu-ray undermines this movie's on the cheap leanings. It just looks like a commercial quickie.
Since this is basically a haunted house movie, you'd expect some decent ambient recreation from the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack - and you'd be right. We get some great ghost noises, as well as a nice bit of demonic dizziness during the Exorcist opening. The score is also solid, as is the collection of faux hits included. With the dialogue easy to understand and the result of the sonic elements solidly surrounding it, this is better than the lackluster visuals.
Get ready for a combination of EPK irritation and added riff wonderment as the bonus features here run the gamut from good to groan-inducing. Watching the Wayans pat themselves on the back throughout the Behind the Scenes segment can be a chore, but the added and deleted scenes more than make-up for their self-serving smugness. Similarly, learning how an animatronic cat duked it out with cast and crew is far more interesting than make-up or additional F/X info. Finally, there's a final piece on the production that adds nothing to our understanding of film, unless you are interested in breakaway glass. Overall, the added content is interesting if not completely engaging - or necessary.
When it was released, Scary Movie 2 was a solid hit. It had horror fans laughing and genre lovers thirsting for more. Naturally, the bean counters responded with two more entries in the franchise. Rumor even has it that 2012 will see Scary Movie 5 hits theaters. Naturally, the question becomes - will this recent installment of the series be as funny or fresh five, ten, or even twenty years from now. The answer can be gleaned from some of the criticism chucked toward Scary Movie 2. As a matter of fact, the film earns a Rent It since this determination allows you to watch the film first before plunking down your dosh in ownership. If it still tickles your funny bone, huzzah! Enjoy! If it doesn't that's because its dated. If timing is everything in comedy, than old is humor hemlock. Scary Movie 2 is decent - it's just no longer delirious.
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