Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Without Anna Faris and actual jokes, lamely unfunny "Scary Movie 5" bottoms out



Scary Movie 5 (2013)
85 min., rated PG-13.

Can you believe "Airplane!" came out a little over three decades ago and still remains one of the funniest, most clever and quotable spoofs of all time? What actually began as a pretty shrewd, raunchy, and often hilarious MAD Magazine-type parody of a horror subgenre with 2000's "Scary Movie," the of-the-moment pop culture-riffing series slowly wore thin through three silly, scattershot sequels in six years, but at least they had their giggles. "Scary Movie 5," the "long-awaited" fifth (and unrelated) entry in the "Scary Movie" series, is just instantaneously forgettable and even less useful than a piece of lint. Worse, it's impossible to excuse how lamely unfunny it is. Without any of the surprise or background gags that this comedy subgenre used to live on, this is the terminally inane, desperate sort that almost makes you forget what made spoofs so infectiously funny in the first place. 

In-and-out-of-rehab kindred spirits Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan get the Carmen Electra/Pamela Anderson, Jenny McCarthy/Shaquille O'Neal, Dr. Phil pre-credit sequence. About to make a sex tape with the "Benny Hill" theme playing over the soundtrack, the two of them poke fun at their infamous tabloid images, but the whole joke feels fumbled without any payoff. Ashley Tisdale and "Scary Movie 3" cast member Simon Rex take over playing numb-skulled married couple Dan and Jody Sanders, like it matters, who comes to adopt Dan's brother's two little girls and infant son. They were abandoned in a cabin in the woods but ferally cared for by a supernatural force named Mama. What follows is a spoofy patchwork plot of this year's "Mama," all of it narrated by a Morgan Freeman impersonator, and a further reminder that the makers have seen the "Paranormal Activity" movies, "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," "Black Swan," "Inception," "The Cabin in the Woods," and "Sinister." Oh, and the "Evil Dead" remake (released just a week ago). Unless one of the filmmakers caught an early screening of it at the SXSW Festival, it's awfully similar, as if "Scary Movie 5" was made in a week. How timeless! 

None of the gags are choicy or worthy of telling at parties, however, some of the "Black Swan" stuff admittedly earns a few passing chuckles. There's a mock-up of Darren Aronofsky's camera intensely following the bunned head of Natalie Portman's character and using repetitive jump cuts; an amusing gag involves ballerina Jody, a single Cheerio, and a stick figure; and the hilariously broad Molly Shannon is a stitch as the smoking, martini-drinking prima ballerina that Winona Ryder played in the real deal. Otherwise, the material always goes for the lowest-common-denominator: A baby's head catches on fire, a little girl sticks a popsicle stick up her butt, a dog has a toothbrush shoved up his own butt, and a man dressed as Santa Claus for an escort service shows his butt. Also, recognition constantly tries passing for parody, as if having a Leonardo DiCaprio clone was enough to send up "Inception" or having Jerry O'Connell turn up as Christian Grey would instantly call attention to the erotic best-seller "Fifty Shades of Grey" even if no one other than sex-starved housewives have read it. Good God, there's even a clone of Tyler Perry's Madea character to heighten the humor. Rim shots will be playing in your head after every would-be joke and visual gag. And try counting all of the dubbing issues, unless the movie is intentionally shoddy. 

No offense to Tisdaleshe does put on a game face and allbut when the fifth film in a flailing spoof franchise casts her as a stand-in for Anna Faris, it's already D.O.A. Against her more committed efforts to simulate a lesbian sex scene with her literally black swan Kendra (Erica Ash, obviously subbing for Regina Hall), a pair of scissors, tacos, and train tunnels do most of the work. A lot of the film (if one feels generous to call it that) devotes time to sped-up stretches of Rex being physically abused by frying pans, lawnmowers, and his own Mexican housekeeper who bakes him a poop-disguised-as-chocolate pie and banana because, well, Octavia Spencer did so in "The Help." Is your funny bone tickling you yet? It's pretty pathetic when a gang of stop-motion vacuum cleaners and pool cleaners come the closest to sucking up all the laughter. 

The litmus test for a parody is simple: Be funny! That's it. But, as they say, credit should be given where credit is due: If director Malcolm D. Lee (who, it seems, has learned nothing since 2002's cleverly funny blaxploitation spoof "Undercover Brother") and credited screenwriters Pat Proft and David Zucker (two of the minds behind the "The Naked Gun" movies) set out to make the most shamelessly juvenile, witless, and uninspired spoof, then it's safe to say they've succeeded with flying colors. But, honestly, the woebegone "Scary Movie 5" can be lumped into the same fiery pit that newly houses January's horrendous flop "A Haunted House" and every one of Jason Friedberg-Aaron Seltzer's cinematic turds. Even if new-generation horror movies deserve a good skewering, no one seems to know how to do it lately or make it funny. Moviegoers, consider this your final warning, or kiss your brain cells goodbye.

Grade: D -

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