Saturday, April 13, 2013
Friends and colleagues constantly remind me the pun ranks as the lowest form of humor. Let the word go forth: I love puns! I acquired my taste for puns from repeat viewings of both classic Marx Brothers’ comedies as well as the vintage James Bond thrillers. The only thing I treasure more than puns are cinematic parodies. “Scary Movie 5”(*** out of ****) doesn’t qualify as the funniest entry in the franchise. Nevertheless, I had a blast watching this shallow scatological spoof and laughing at the way it skewered a number of recently successful films. “Undercover Brother” director Malcolm Lee and “Scary Movie 3” scenarists David Zucker and Pat Proft furnish audiences with a farcical frenzy of sight gags and slapstick designed to make us cringe with delight. The biggest difference between “Scary Movie 5” and the four previous entries is the conspicuous absence of Anna Farris. Ashley Tisdale replaced Farris in this installment because Farris was pregnant when the producers lensed it in September and October of 2012. Although she lacks the deer-caught-in-the-headlights idiocy that Farris brought to each of the previous outings, Tisdale acquits herself adequately enough under the circumstances. Similarly, Regina Hall skipped this one, but she wasn’t pregnant like Anna. Meantime, Dimension Films hasn’t regaled us with a “Scary Movie” since the fourth installment came out back in 2006. Any time a sequel to a sequel doesn’t appear a year or two after its predecessor, you have to figure something must have gotten in the way. Hundreds of movies have come and gone in those intervening seven years, and the “Scary Movie” people have ignored some that would have been ripe for ridiculing. My chief complaint is that neither Lee nor his scripters have lacerated “The Hunger Games,” “Looper,” the “Twilight” sagas, “The Expendables,” “Pitch Perfect,” “The Social Network,” “The King’s Speech,” and “Avatar.”
The best scene in “Scary Movie 5” is the opening scene with Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan in bed together deriding their reputations in a riff on the “Paranormal Activity” movies. An earlier “Scary Movie” skewered Michael Jackson, but a lookalike stand-in played Jackson. Here the Real McCoys are mocking themselves and it’s a hoot to watch them. Afterward, we are treated to a series of titles like those in the “Paranormal Activity” movies about the disappearance of the participants. Although Charlie’s body was found, we are informed that his corpse continued to party hardy. The scene then shifts to the woods of Humboldt County where Snoop Dog and Mac Miller are searching for weed rather than Charlie’s three missing children. They stumble onto a cabin in the woods where they encounter Charlie’s kids scuttling around at thrice the speed of normal, ordinary humans. Initially, neither is sure what is haunting the cabin and they deploy an arsenal of firearms with which they riddle the premises. Eventually, they learn they’re blasting away at two, filthy, unwashed urchins. They turn the kids over to the authorities and score a handsome reward.
Charlie’s brother Dan (Simon Rex of “Superhero Movie”) and Dan’s wife Jody (Ashley Tisdale of “Donnie Darko”) are awarded custody of Charlie’s children. The Institute for Case Studies allows them to raise the siblings on the condition that Dan and Jody live in a palatial residence house. As part of the deal, Dan and Jody get a hirsute Hispanic housekeeper, Maria (Lidia Porto of “Idiocracy”), who bears her Catholicism like a cross. They also get a German shepherd police dog. The superstitious Maria starts blessing the baby the moment after Jody crosses the threshold with him. Throughout these scenes, a grey-skinned hag in black apparel flits around in the background. The responsibility of raising his brother’s children prompts Dan to push himself harder at his job so he can impress his bosses. Dan conducts research at a primate laboratory. He has been carrying out an experiment on apes to ascertain their intelligence. Naturally, all the apes turn into anti-social specimens, while one of them, Caesar, exhibits above-average intelligence. Meanwhile, Jody aspires to be a ballerina like her mother who gave birth to her during a performance of Swan Lake. At the same time, Jody’s friend Kendra Brooks (Erica Ash of “MADtv”) is competing for the role, while long time prima ballerina Heather Daltry (Molly Shannon of “Superstar”) launches a smear campaign against Jody. Poor Dan runs into trouble galore at his laboratory. Jody persuades the children to tell her about their mom who raised them in the wild until demons came along to possess her. She found a mysterious tome that warned her not to recite its evil incantations. At home, the demons possess the swimming pool droids and these nifty mechanical devices treat themselves to a pool party, snorting cleaning powder.
This time around “Scary Movie 5” roasts not only the “Paranormal Activity” franchise, but also “Inception,” “Black Swan,” “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” “Sinister,” Mama,” “A Cabin in the Woods,” and “Evil Dead.” Mind you, I loved the “Paranormal Activity” franchise, and I laughed at the hilarious send-up that Lee and his scribes gave it, especially with the swimming pool droids. The scenes that mocked “Evil Dead” are pretty funny, too. Of course, you’ll have to endure the usual lowest common denominator bowel humor as well as assorted penis jokes. The metaphorical montage of pseudo lesbian love scenes resembles the heterosexual hotdog scenes from “The Naked Gun” parodies. Not surprisingly, Zucker and Proft were the geniuses behind that franchise, too. Two last minute surprises will have you rolling. First, you’ll realize why Snoop Dog wanted a yacht with a shark in its pool. Second, you’ll discover that the narrator is more than just a guy who mimics Morgan Freeman. Clocking in at a trim 85 minutes, “Scary Movie 5” doesn’t squander a second. You should stick around for the amusing end credits and the outtakes that appear throughout them.