Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Cinema File #161: "Scary Movie 5" Review

A while back I reviewed the film A Haunted House, produced by the same people who brought us the original films in the Scary Movie franchise, before that series was taken over by David Zucker, one of the fathers of the modern day parody genre that the Wayans brothers were contributing to in the first place. If that wasn't convoluted enough, the Scary Movie films, still bearing the original working title for Scream, a movie series not even relevant enough to parody anymore, gave birth to the careers of Friedberg and Seltzer, who would go on to pervert said genre into the shallow reference-sans-humor, lowest common denominator monster it is today, the fans of which David Zucker now regrettably has to appeal to. I've just seen Scary Movie 5, and while there are brief moments within the film that remind me of the writer's classic work, enough to probably put it over the top as least worst post-Wayans parody film to date, the good bits ultimately only serve to remind me of how far we've come, and how much we've lost since the good old days of Naked Gun and Airplane.

The story, to the extent that you can call a loose assortment of references to other movies a story, is largely a parody of Mama and Paranormal Activity. After a mostly unnecessary but not entirely unfunny prologue featuring Charlie Sheen and Lindsey Lohan filming a sex tape, we're introduced to our main leads, a couple who adopt a trio of children raised by a supernatural creature, which they attempt to track via a series of cameras in their home. I don't care enough about this series to feel one way or the other about the absence of Anna Farris or Regina Hall, who I honestly didn't realize were actually playing the same characters through all of these movies all this time, if only because I didn't realize that I was expected to see them as characters at all. For what its worth, Ashley Tisdale and the returning Simon Rex are capable enough I suppose, even if the demands placed upon them by this movie are not all that formidable

I don't know enough about how these movies have evolved over the past few years to know if this is common, but I have to wonder about the efficacy of putting out a parody movie in 2013 where a good chunk of the films being directly parodied came out in 2010 and 2011. The main story of the film follows the plot of Mama, and the end takes on the recent Evil Dead remake, but two key subplots spoof Black Swan, Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, and Inception, which in addition to not being horror films, aren't really current enough it seems to me to justify the focus. Back in the day with movies like Naked Gun and Airplane, it was the genre tropes being parodied, not necessarily specific films, so it didn't necessarily matter how current some of the set ups were, but here, the jokes are much more closely tied to certain films, which I would think would make it more imperative to parody movies people are still interested in. I can't imagine how any of these films hold up quite frankly, as the short attention spans of the generation of dullards that find the Friedberg Seltzer mold funny probably isn't capable of remembering that some of these movies still exist.

The film is not without its few funny moments, and in truth I would say I laughed at about 15% to 20% of it all told, which if anything is more than I expected. A symbolic lesbian sex montage had me laughing in spite of myself, as did the Evil Dead segment featuring a group of hyper-religious teens self mutilating themselves, then left confused when the curse is lifted, but it made me wonder why this set piece wasn't used for the B or C plot instead of the more dated references. Still other jokes started out somewhat amusing, but predictably overstayed their welcome, chief among them the Hispanic maid who knows all too well what evil dwells in the house. This is a cliche rife for parody, and done a little better here than in A Haunted House, but it gets old pretty fast. And then of course you have the random pop-culture references that don't ever seem to have jokes attached to them, like Madea and Honey Boo Boo, and I guess Fifty Shades of Grey. Its not quite as bad as the Friedberg Seltzer movies, if only because those kinds of "jokes" don't overpower the other, slightly more integrated ones, but they are just as unnecessary.

Overall, I'd say that I enjoyed (for lack of a better term) this movie more so than any other modern parody film since Scary Movie 2, even if its still not very good in general. It's a bit like the Tyler Perry scale of quality, where there's yet to be a genuinely good one, but there are lesser degrees of terribleness within the canon. Though most of it wasn't all that funny, very little of it was offensively unfunny. While it tackles much of the same material, it is sort of the opposite of A Haunted House, in that it spends less time on developing characters so we like them, but also less time giving us annoying side characters that you can't stand. The worst I can say about Scary Movie 5 is that a majority of the jokes aren't very funny, but at least none of them made me want to walk out, which given most of the movies like it, is actually kind of a big thing. It still sucks, and you probably shouldn't bother seeing it, but I can't not give it credit for sucking less than the rest of its ilk.

Or maybe not. I don't know. Just don't waste your money on it.

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