Thursday, July 6, 2000

Wayans make 'em scream like old times

Movie: Scary Movie

Posted on Thu, Jul 6, 2000 at 4:00 AM

***1/2
Scary Movie
Length: 1 hour, 28 minutes
Studio: Dimension Films
Website: http://www.scarymovie.com/
Release Date: 2000-07-07
Cast: Shawn Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Cheri Oteari, Carmen Electra
Director: Keenan Ivory Wayans
Screenwriter: Shawn Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Buddy Johnson
Music Score: David Kitay
WorkNameSort: Scary Movie
Our Rating: 3.50

Inspired by the "Airplane!" school of comedy, the surprise summer treat "Scary Movie" may be entirely of the moment and time-dated practically as soon as the box-office figures are tallied. Still, it's a relentlessly rude, crude, lewd and politically incorrect effort that actually provokes riotous laughter all the way through.

In that respect, it's reminiscent of the Farrelly brothers' "There's Something About Mary" (but not of the half-baked "Me, Myself and Irene"). Nearly all of the sight gags work, and so does the absurd dialogue. Word-of-mouth on this silly but satisfying lark, basically a series of loosely connected skits with recurring characters, ought to guarantee a long run.

With "Scary Movie," Keenen Ivory Wayans, the director responsible for similar damage to other genres with "Don't Be a Menace to South Central ..." (hip-hop drama) and "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka" (blaxploitation), takes aim at contemporary fright films, postmodern and '70s slasher-horror, and teen-sex comedies. Wayans, with the help of screenwriting-acting siblings Marlon and Shawn, scores a fatal, funny blow, completely dependent on audiences' understanding of broad references to other movies -- including "The Matrix" and "Amistad" -- and even the "Whassup?" ads for Budweiser.

Wayans opens with a sequence mocking the start of "Scream" (original title: "Scary Movie"). A buxom blonde named Drew (Carmen Electra), as in Barrymore, receives a frightening call followed by a visit from a killer. For protection, she grabs a banana, rather than the adjacent knife or gun, and sprints across the lawn, stripped to her bra and panties, drenched by the sprinkler and slowing down in order to strike a series of sexy poses. The masked menace nevertheless catches up, strikes her body with his blade and winds up with a breast implant dangling from his weapon. Sick stuff, but funny.

The killer, equipped with multiple "Scream" masks in a variety of facial expressions, targets a particular group of high-school friends and begins to terrorize them. The would-be victims, bonded by a vow of secrecy over last summer's tragic accident, include a burly football player sexually attracted to his teammates (Shawn Wayans), his befuddled girlfriend (Regina Hall), a voluptuous ditz (Shannon Elizabeth of "American Pie"), her jock boyfriend (Lochlyn Munro), and an innocent (Anna Faris) who undergoes a shocking transformation when she finally beds down with her eager sweetheart (Jon Abrahams). Also in harm's way are a good-time stoner (Marlon Wayans) and an annoying TV reporter (Cheri Oteri).

Fair warning: Genitalia is utilized as an instrument of death in a scene late in "Scary Movie." Whether audiences find that upsetting or amusing is probably a good indication of the filmmakers' success or lack thereof in determining how far to go with shock comedy before crossing over into the unacceptable.

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