Making the Grades
If there's one thing you can say about the Scary Movie franchise, it's consistent. The only thing that's changed in four films is the rating... the first two garnered an R by the MPAA, but after the second had a poor showing at the box office, creators made a financially wise decision and moved the third grossfest to the PG-13 category. That brought the bottom line back into six figures. Otherwise, the concept--right down to the primary character, little blonde Cindy Campbell (Anna Faris)--hasn't changed a bit. And neither has the goal to insult as many identifiable groups as possible while at the same time spoofing as many movies as possible.
In this installment, the Japanese inspired horror film The Grudge and the sci-fi thriller War of the Worlds provide the most fodder for the script, along with moments stolen from M. Night Shyamalan's The Villiage. Looking outside the spooky genre, writers also include ongoing gags about two male characters a la Brokeback Mountain, a boxing angle straight out of Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby and a little Hustle and Flow to keep things hip. (Obviously, no one is concerned the under-18 crowd may not be familiar with the couple of R-rated titles.)
Blending these borrowed plot points together, edition number four begins with young Cindy moving into a strange Japanese-style home with a ghost in the attic, right beside the Brooklyn Bridge. Next door lives a divorced man who is about to deal with a problem far greater than his rebellious son. After a giant, mysterious music-playing device ruptures out from under the pavement, tr-iPod robots begin attacking the city. Meanwhile, in a remote and isolated upstate village, people living a century-old lifestyle are wondering what the hubbub is all about.
Mocking any of these popular films ought to provide plenty of opportunities for some good laughs. Unfortunately, Scary Movie 4 never strives for anything higher than the minimum requirement to attract an audience. Once beyond the opening few minutes involving the real Dr. Phil and Shaquille O'Neal, the fun dissipates rapidly.
There is no waning in the barrage of sexual, racial and bodily function jokes though. In order to find the bulk of this film remotely humorous, you need to get your laughs from situations like watching an elderly woman getting washed off in her own urine, a man gulping down a bottle of Viagra in an attempt to commit suicide (creating the obvious visual gag), or a blind woman wearing lingerie having an impossibly noisy bowel movement during a town hall meeting. Profanities and explicit violence presented in a comedic fashion round out the content issues.
Obviously, this film contains elements most parents will find offensive--and I've only listed a small sampling. It's also a poorly made project that makes for a long sit, even though it has only a scant 85-minute runtime. What's truly scary is the likelihood the movie will make enough money to bring on yet another sequel.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Scary Movie 4.
Why do people enjoy laughing at movies that were originally made to be frightening? How does spoofing a film help us to understand the production elements used to create suspense?
Do you think Scary Movie 4 would still be humorous without the “shock” content?