- The Washington Times - Friday, July 7, 2000

I suppose the management of Miramax and Dimension, its "genre" subsidiary, qualify as "really good sports" albeit of an undiscriminating and self-defeating kind for encouraging "Scary Movie." An uninspired but undeniably lewd and outrageous parody of recent horror thrillers, the film was directed by Keenen Ivory Wayans with the collaboration of two kid brothers, Shawn and Marlon, who doubled as screenwriters and cast members.

You get a curious, perhaps overgenerous feeling that their hearts were not in this particular parasitic project, even when shooting the works with obscene sight gags. The ultimate knee-slapper: a volcanic sexual climax that plasters the female partner to the bedroom ceiling.

"Scary Movie" depends most frequently on maladroit mockery of "Scream," a Miramax-Dimension hit of substantial proportions. Indeed, it was a style-setting, genre-reviving sensation at the end of 1996. It spawned two sequels and made a teen-fixated industry and monstrosity of the previously unknown screenwriter, Kevin Williamson, destined to disgrace himself last year while directing a debut feature, "Teaching Mrs. Tingle."

The new movie also borrows the original title of the Williamson prototype, known as "Scary Movie" until production was well advanced. Mr. Wayans keeps returning to the "Scream" scenario after taking gratuitous swipes at "I Know What You Did Last Summer," "The Faculty," "The Blair Witch Project," "The Sixth Sense," "The Matrix" and even a pair of stray historical epics, "Titanic" and "Amistad," lumped together in a mock-trailer.

These incongruous tidbits are framed within a regular theatrical showing of Miramax's prestigious "Shakespeare in Love," borrowed in its original guise for a few moments. So the range of nest-fouling is more extensive than one might suppose, or a proud management might want to humor. The "Shakespeare" digression also turns into one of the uglier brainstorms of the show. It revolves around an obstreperous, motormouth black patron, played by Regina King, who antagonizes other patrons so much that they gang up for a stabbing conspiracy, rather like the assassins of Julius Caesar or the avenging train passengers in "Murder on the Orient Express."

For the most part Miss King pretends to be simply the token black coed among a trio of endangered high school bimbos. A highly improbable classmate called Drew, impersonated by the celebrated pinup Carmen Electra, is facetiously slaughtered in the prologue, which mimics the prologue of "Scream," which pretended to sacrifice Drew Barrymore, of course.

Miss King's Brenda and Shannon Elizabeth's Buffy prove more expendable than Anna Faris' Cindy, a moronic stand-in for the Neve Campbell heroine in "Scream." If you stay long enough to contemplate Cindy's apotheosis as naked, gucky ceiling litter, you may conclude that Brenda and Buffy get off easy the latter as a talking severed head, to spoil one of the movie's typically stale kiss-offs.

There are openly contemptuous but defective counterparts for all the principal characters in "Scream." The reductionist tendencies are perhaps best suggested by the variation on David Arquette's lovelorn deputy Dewey: a drooling spaz called Doofy, impersonated by David Sheridan. None of the comic exaggeration takes a subtle turn, for some mysterious reason.

What Mr. Wayans conspicuously fails to do is liberate his own movie sufficiently from "Scream" to claim a witty fictional life of its own. The failure looks especially humiliating because "Scream" itself was so deft at being duplicitous: director Wes Craven achieved a remarkably confident and accomplished blend of genre sensation and genre parody.

"Scary Movie" owes more to its ostensible object of derision than it can repay. As a consequence the howlers kind of backfire. You're reminded of how much more proficient Mr. Wayans' "In Living Color" troupe was when kidding selected movies in smartly condensed sketches. "Scary Movie" grows rather sickening while trying to swallow "Scream" and its imitators in one mercenary gulp.


TITLE: "Scary Movie"

RATING: R (Systematic facetious and sexual vulgarity; occasional profanity and lewdly exaggerated sight gags about sex organs and intercourse; fleeting nudity; frequent allusions to drug use and stupefaction)

CREDITS: Directed by Keenen Ivory Wayans. Screenplay by Shawn Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Buddy Johnson, Phil Beauman, Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer.

RUNNING TIME: 85 minutes

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