Scary Movie 4 is billed as the fourth and final chapter in the trilogy. Which is: a) something we should instruct lawyers to enforce; and b) about as sophisticated and funny as Scary Movie 4 gets. No prizes for guessing the routine here. It’s the standard Scary Movie formula of a “plot” — in the loosest possible sense of the word — built up around pastiches of assorted recent movie releases. And, if you listen closely, it’s all punctuated by the distant sound of a dead horse being flogged.
Once again the action focuses on Cindy Campbell (Faris), now battling to save the Earth from Martian invaders with the help of sleazy friend Brenda (Hall, screeching so much only dogs can hear her) and Tom Ryan (Craig Bierko) doing the Cruise-esque blue collar hero bit only with less brains, for, it says here, comedic effect. With War of the Worlds as the chief target, SM4 also shoehorns in digs at Saw, The Grudge, er, Saw II, The Village, Brokeback Mountain and Million Dollar Baby. Some raise a smile, most fall painfully flat, but there are one or two moments of genuine humour: Tom Ryan bouncing around the sofa as Oprah tries to interview him, for example. But, like all the potentially good moments in this franchise, the makers don’t know when to stop. They get a laugh and then milk it. You want to be tickled, but instead you’re beaten into submission. And then beaten some more. All served with a side order of beating. Accordingly, this quick Tom Cruise gag becomes even more embarrassing than the original incident.
It’s slightly depressing to see Faris in this steaming great pile of, er, film, given her recent fine work in Brokeback Mountain. More alarming though is the presence of Pullman doing an “hilarious” cameo alongside the usual desperate suspects like Nielsen, Carmen Electra and Charlie Sheen. Pullman’s name was once synonymous with quality. He had a great eye for a script, a willingness to play minor roles, and an admirable tendency to take the quirky over the blockbuster. On this evidence, following so swiftly on from his appearance in the embarrassing Alien Autopsy, we can only assume he’s got alimony payments or gambling debts to clear. Astonishingly, Scary Movie 4 is directed by David Zucker, who was part of the Airplane! team. That formula — gag, move on, gag, move on — left audiences laughing so hard you wanted the film to stop. You’ll also want Scary Movie 4 to stop. Just not, sadly, for the same reason.