Scary Movie 4

Year: 2006
Director: David Zucker
Writer: Craig Mazin/Jim Abrahams
Cast: Anna Faris, Craig Bierko, Regina Hall, Leslie Nielsen, Charlie Sheen, Carmen Electra, Bill Pullman
There's a scene in Pixar's Monsters Inc, where Mike, Sully and their co-workers realise children's laughter produces more power for Monstropolis than their screams, the elicitation of which has been the monsters' jobs until that point.

One eyed frog-like creature Mike (Billy Crystal) is sitting in a bedroom doing an old school stand-up routine for a kid. After getting little more than a confused stare, Mike instead swallows his microphone and emits a belch that throws the kid into hysterics.

Scary Movie 4's a lot like that. Laughter is indeed the best medicine, and sometimes you're just not in the mood for the beret and black turtleneck chin-stroking crowd. When you'd rather see someone slip on a banana peel than listen to a Woody Allen-like monologue on the comic ironies of higher existence, the Scary Movie franchise is for you.

After the Wayans' family (TV's In Living Color) left the series following Scary Movie 2, director David Zucker - who forged the genre 25 years ago with the release of Flying High - stepped in.

Scary Movie 3 unfortunately wasn't much of an improvement. Zucker abandoned the frankly sickening toilet humour of Scary Movie 2, but it suffered from the same lazy execution.

This time, they've realised that even in the theatre of the absurd, the story and characters go a long way to carrying a 90-minute movie and stringing a bunch of gags together around a loosely stitched plot just doesn't cut it.

Cindy Campbell (Anna Faris) returns, recovering from heartbreak and taking a job caring for an old lady in a Japanese house filled with strange goings-on. Tom Ryan (Bierko, last seen as Russell Crowe's fearsome nemesis in Cinderella Man) lives next door, a deadbeat dad who has his kids for the weekend. A dockworker, Tom drives his Mustang recklessly, lives under a huge road bridge and watches with his kids as a nasty thunderstorms develops.

Cindy has to solve the mystery of the strange white-faced child appearing to her around the house, a riddle that leads her to a mysterious village where the residents act and dress like it's the 19th century and live in fear of creatures who live beyond the forest's edge.

It's possible you never go to the movies and can't recognise War of the Worlds, The Grudge and The Village in the above plot rundown, but in case you're new to the Scary Movie series, its modus operandi is to take three or four recent horror movies to form the basis of the plot, riffing on several more in shorter sequences. The parodies of Brokeback Mountain (with Anthony Anderson and DeRay Davis as the series' resident gangbangers) and the Oprah's couch incident are a scream.

Sadly, not even Zucker can reach the lofty heights of Flying High's fast pace. Along with other early efforts like The Naked Gun and Top Secret, it worked by throwing gags at you so quickly you didn't have time to realise how ridiculous they were. Without similar pacing, some of Scary Movie 4's jokes fall flat (although it's nowhere near as bad as the woeful Date Movie), but far more hit the mark.

Yes, it's completely dim-witted (and unfortunately it seems no comedy writer or director can resist the inclusion of a diarrhoea toilet scene), but as any fan of the genre knows, that's as valid a form of entertainment as ballet or opera. Check your higher mental functions at the door and enjoy it.

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