Dir: Malcolm D. Lee. US. 2013. 86mins
Scary Movie 5 has approximately five good laughs across its entire running time, as this spoof sequel takes genial aim at horror movies (but also Black Swan and Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes) without much inspiration or manic energy. The Scary Movie franchise has never been known for its highbrow comedy — if anything, its audience appeal has derived from just how low these movies are willing to go — but this latest instalment feels especially juvenile and pointless, revelling in bathroom humour and tired bits. You’ll remember little of this film after it’s over.
As should be apparent, a plot synopsis of Scary Movie 5 is mostly irrelevant, the setup just an excuse to satirize high-profile pop culture totems in a haphazard way.
Opening April 12 in the US without screening for critics, Scary Movie 5 arrives seven years after the previous sequel. (Back in 2000, the original Scary Movie grossed $278m worldwide and remains the most commercially successful of the bunch.) But with another low-budget horror spoof, A Haunted House, doing solid business Stateside in January ($40m), the question remains whether comedy fans are craving any more films that mock the Paranormal Activity movies so soon.
Directed by Malcolm D. Lee (Undercover Brother), a newcomer to the series, Scary Movie 5 focuses on a married couple, Jody (Ashley Tisdale) and Dan (Simon Rex), who adopt his dead brother’s children, all of whom seem possessed by a demon. As they set up cameras around their home to track the evil spirit’s activities, Jody tries to become the lead in her local production of Swan Lake, while Dan does experiments at his lab to make apes super-intelligent.
As should be apparent, a plot synopsis of Scary Movie 5 is mostly irrelevant, the setup just an excuse to satirize high-profile pop culture totems in a haphazard way. But despite the fact that the film is credited to screenwriters David Zucker and Pat Proft — who have been involved in the Naked Gun and Hot Shots! movies (and Zucker directed Scary Movie 3 and Scary Movie 4) — this new sequel is especially anaemic, lacking the winning boyish giddiness that is these writers’ trademark. There are a few solid chuckles to be had in Scary Movie 5, but they tend to be throwaway jokes as opposed to sustained sequences or expertly executed running gags.
Also problematic is that the movie seems to have been put together in pieces over a span of time. Mocking the latest hit movies is de rigueur with such films, so it’s conspicuous that three of Scary Movie 5’s biggest targets — Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, Inception and Black Swan — now feel practically ancient by the short-attention-span standards of the spoof genre. (Tellingly, the Paranormal Activity instalment that’s most specifically teased, 2, came out in 2010.)
Considering that the film also tries to throw in jokes about Zero Dark Thirty and the Evil Dead remake — not to mention incorporating a major plot strand from the recent Mama — Scary Movie 5 can’t help but feel like a conglomeration of unrelated ideas. The fact that few of the bits are really funny only makes the whole endeavour seem that much more threadbare.
Though he gamely allows his body to be pummelled repeatedly for laughs, Rex (a veteran of the Zucker-era Scary Movie films) is a blank presence who can’t transform his bland all-American looks into something more subversive or demented. Similarly, Tisdale may appeal to younger crowds — she came of age as one of the stars of the High School Musical movies — but she’s not all that funny, her attempts at deadpan timing mostly ineffective. You’ll quickly long for the comedic chops of Anna Faris, who was in the first four Scary Movie films but terribly missed here.
Production companies: DZE, Brad Grey Pictures
Domestic distribution: Dimension Films, http://weinsteinco.com/
Producers: David Zucker, Phil Dornfeld
Executive producers: Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein, Matthew Signer, Brian Bell
Screenplay: David Zucker & Pat Proft, based on characters created by Shawn Wayans & Marlon Wayans & Buddy Johnson & Phil Beauman and Jason Friedberg & Aaron Seltzer
Cinematography: Steven Douglas Smith
Production design: Clark Hunter
Editor: Sam Seig
Music: James Venable
Main Cast: Ashley Tisdale, Simon Rex, Erica Ash, Katrina Bowden, Terry Crews, Jasmine Guy, Darrell Hammond, Sarah Hyland, Heather Locklear, J.P. Manoux, Mac Miller, Shad Moss aka Bow Wow, Jerry O’Connell, Tyler Posey, Molly Shannon, Snoop Dogg, Mike Tyson, Usher, Kate Walsh, Katt Williams