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Great spoofs overcome dumb jokes in 'Scary Movie 4'

For the second week in a row, I'm giving a pass to yet another comedy that is pretty bad but had me laughing for a good chunk of its running time.

I was not a fan of the first two Scary Movie installments. I like Keenen Ivory Wayans every now and then, but he got a little too sick with those films, and the jokes were worn out. David Zucker, master of Airplane! and The Naked Gun, took over the franchise with Scary Movie 3, and does so again with the latest chapter, Scary Movie 4.

The results are more of the same: some dud jokes sprinkled with decent gutbusters. Somebody gave Zucker pretty big bank to make his spoofs of The Village, The Ring and especially War of the Worlds look authentic, and the screenwriters mine those films for some good chuckles.

Anna Faris, who has made appearances in all four films, has mastered the Zucker brand of comedy and manages to sell nearly all the jokes she's forced to deliver. I especially liked her pantomime of yucky procedures she is forced to perform while taking care of an elderly woman (Cloris Leachman, spoofing the doomed senior citizen from The Grudge). Faris, who made a short appearance in last year's Brokeback Mountain and shined in the silly romantic comedy Just Friends, is proving to be one of the better comic actresses out there right now.

I find it very pleasing that somebody has taken the time to spoof The Village. Its moronic plot and hilariously bad dialogue were ripe for ripping. Bill Pullman gets a chance to goof on the whole "Those of who we do not speak" garbage ("If we speak about those of whom we do not speak of, are we not speaking about them?"). M. Night Shyamalan's worst movie almost felt like a spoof to start, so Zucker has a breezy time taking shots at it.

As for the War of the Worlds, it's impressive how well Zucker and his team have done re-creating the Tripods from Spielberg's original. Craig Bierko is a decent stand-in for Tom Cruise, wearing the same leather jackets and hoodies sported by Cruise in the original. Before the credits roll, he does a parody of Cruise's Oprah couch-dancing antics, this time eating the couch and twisting Oprah's arms until they crack.

The film has its share of gross-out humor. Carmen Electra, as the blind girl played by Bryce Dallas Howard in The Village, takes a dump in a church sanctuary that puts the toilet show Jeff Daniels performed in Dumb and Dumber to shame. Chris Elliott, as The Village idiot, has maximum problems with boogers, and Cloris Leachman gets a urine sponge bath.

Now, how the hell did this movie get a PG-13 rating? Some of the humor is beyond foul, and I was sure it had gotten an R as I took it in. The Brokeback Mountain jokes alone seem to push it into restricted territory. Nevertheless, there's only one F-bomb in the film, so I guess a director can be as raunchy as he wants, as long as he doesn't utilize the most profane and wondrous of all obscenities more than the PG-13-allotted one time.

While one must appreciate his willingness to go all out, Leslie Nielsen has no business taking his clothes off for any movie. The man is something in the neighborhood of 130 years old, and the droop factor has set in. That said, his turn as the president is a laugh-getter, including his refusal to leave an elementary school room during an alien attack until he finds out the fate of a duck during story time.

The movie scored big bucks on its opening weekend, and word is already out that Chapter 5 is on the way. It seems that each director in this franchise gets two shots, so it wouldn't be surprising if somebody else got a chance to disgrace Carmen Electra within the next couple of years.

Scary Movie 4
Rated NR

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