- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 23, 2003

“Scary Movie” resuscitated the nutty brand of parody perfected by David and Jerry Zucker (“Airplane,” “The Naked Gun”).

So it’s only fitting that when Keenen Ivory Wayans begged out of directing a third “Scary Movie,” David Zucker signed on.

The Zucker imprint is all over “Scary Movie 3” — offensive gags, head-splitting slapstick and more jokes per minute than a Chris Rock rant. Unlike its predecessors, the new film slips by Hollywood’s ratings board with a PG-13, not an R, rating.

Either the Zucker blueprint isn’t aging well or the horror genre is all spoofed out.

The third film takes meaty swipes at “The Ring,” “Signs” and “8 Mile” but never gels as a cohesive story. If anything, the buckshot approach reeks of desperation. By the time Simon Cowell appears for a nod to “American Idol,” it’s clear the franchise should be read its last rites.

“Scary Movie” holdover Anna Faris stars as newscaster Cindy Campbell, whose adopted child suddenly can predict the future. Viewers will have similar premonitions — Mr. Zucker telegraphs one punch line after another.

The boy is drawing macabre pictures with his Crayola set, a la “The Ring,” and Cindy must decode a mysterious video portending doom for them both.

Meanwhile, a local farmer (a dazed, ineffective Charlie Sheen) discovers mysterious crop circles on his land spelling out “Attack Here” with an arrow pointing to his home.

The farmer’s ne’er-do-well brother (Simon Rex) is an Eminem wannabe, a recurring gag with shockingly little juice.

Zucker favorite Leslie Nielsen returns as the president, and his tiny contribution underlines the thin premise. Mr. Nielsen, so dry as the bumbling Frank Drebin in “The Naked Gun” trilogy, stumbles through “Scary Movie 3” as if gate-crashing a family reunion.

Mel Brooks thrived as a big-screen parodist by leaning heavily on his reliable group of regulars. He could always milk laughs from Harvey Korman, Madeline Kahn or Gene Wilder whenever the screenplay faltered.

Mr. Zucker casts two vanilla performers (Miss Faris, Mr. Rex) for roles that require bona fide comedians. The gaggle of cameos, from Queen Latifah to bimbos Pamela Anderson and Jenny McCarthy, lends nothing more than rubber-necking name recognition.

At times, the Zucker “shock and awe” approach clicks. The director strings together his gags like a boxer throwing combinations. But Mr. Zucker always lets us off the ropes before he can land the knockout blow.

The first “Scary Movie” boasted the tag line “No mercy. No shame. No sequel.” The almighty dollar had something to say about that.

“Scary Movie 3” may boast a new creative team, but the film exists chiefly to extend a brand whose time has come and gone.

**

WHAT: “Scary Movie 3”

RATING: PG-13 (Crude language, sexual gags and drug references)

CREDITS: Directed by David Zucker. Written by Brian Lynch, Craig Mazin, Pat Proft, Kevin Smith and David Zucker.

RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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