Continuing the horror comedy series created by Shawn, Marlon, and Keenan Ivory Wayans, Scary Movie 5 is a relatively clean slate for the franchise – with very few returning faces behind or in front of the camera. As with prior entries, the plot is a thin piece of storytelling designed to string together disconnected parody scenes and over-the-top gags. This time, the basic Scary Movie setup kicks-off with adoptive parents Dan (Simon Rex) and Jody (Ashley Tisdale) who arrive home with three orphaned children – and soon witness supernatural events occurring. With the help of friends and specialists, including Katt Williams and a genetically enhanced chimpanzee, the pair determine that they are dealing with a paranormal entity – setting out to banish the trouble-making spirit.
In the time since Scary Movie 4 (back in April 2006), audiences have been treated to a number of well-received box office horror hits – meaning that Scary Movie 5 has a wide array of well-known properties to riff-on, including: Paranormal Activity, Scream 4, Insidious, Sinister, The Cabin in the Woods, Evil Dead, and Mama. Does the latest entry make smart use of this enjoyable stable of spooky films and deliver a humorous horror parody with plenty of laughs?
Unfortunately, Scary Movie 5 is another step down for the already flailing series – repeatedly relying on bottom of the barrel imitation in place of biting satire. Moviegoers may disagree on the quality of the original films in the Scary Movie franchise but, even when those installments failed to provide intelligent laughs, some of the jokes could at least illicit guilty chuckles. However, without any of the original filmmakers Keenen Ivory Wayans (White Chicks) and David Zucker (Naked Gun) or stars Anna Faris, Regina Hall, as well as Marlon and Shawn Wayans, Scary Movie 5 forgoes any attempt at earning laughs. Instead, the film pushes a disconnected mess of brainless mockery and B-list movie stars.
Singer/actress Ashley Tisdale (Hellcats) gives the lead role her best shot but Scary Movie 5 undercuts inventiveness and comedic timing with choppy one-line-at-a-time editing cuts – meant to highlight already eye-rolling dialogue. In fact, director Malcolm D. Lee (Undercover Brother), forces a number of painfully noticeable (and distracting) audio dubs to ensure that viewers can clearly hear every word in a callow gag – even when the voiceover is poorly synced and makes his onscreen performers look awkward.
Of course, no one expects award-winning acting in a Scary Movie film but this is the first installment in the series where it’s downright uncomfortable to watch the cast attempt to salvage their appearances – in service of one-liners that are not nearly worth the effort. In previous films, the leads whole-heartedly committed to the absurdity, helping to engage and sell viewers on the foolishness. In part 5, it’s clear that Tisdale (along with other performers including Erica Ash and Molly Shannon) are not fully convinced – merely trying to make the best of their respective (and unfunny) scenes.
In fact, there are actually a number of talented people involved in the film but Scary Movie 5 makes poor use of them. Up and comers like Sarah Hyland (Modern Family) and Katrina Bowden (Tucker & Dale vs. Evil) are relegated to shamefully idiotic and unfunny bit parts in favor of on-the-nose screen time for tabloid stars like Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan. Normally it’s entertaining to see celebrities poke fun at their public personas but the Lohan and Sheen scenes (stay after the credits) aren’t just in bad taste, given their actual destructive and on-going legal problems, they’re not very funny – relying on the absolute lowest and most obvious stunts imaginable.
In lieu of earning laughs through worthwhile satire (inspired parody that toys with expectations and themes), Scary Movie 5 continuously chooses the most unimaginative or disgusting direction for nearly every single attempted laugh. It’s not a new approach for the franchise but this time Lee hammers the same pranks until they go from being stale to irritating – without also injecting many fresh or unexpected moments. The few surprises that are included (such as a spontaneous pool vacuum keg party) still suffer from prolonged exposure – and make absolutely no sense in the context of the already thin plot progression.
As mentioned, the story is little more than thread tethering a series of spoofs together but few of the individual parodies follow any plot point to worthwhile conclusion – even when isolated from the larger film. Despite a heavy focus on a Mama-inspired storyline, potential threats are never explored or connected and, as a result, it’s often unclear what to focus on in any given scene – making it impossible for the film to develop humorous setups or provide worthwhile callbacks.
Worst of all, Scary Movie 5 makes poor use of great horror films and throws a steady stream of obscene and flimsy ideas at the audience – in the hopes that one or two will illicit a laugh. A few viewers might giggle when a plus-sized character slips into a bikini or could enjoy watching a grown man punch a child in the face. Still, most viewers will find that Scary Movie 5 is bottom of the barrel fare that makes uninspired choices at every turn. Quality parody is supposed to say something intelligent about its targeted material but, whenever there’s a chance for smart satire, Scary Movie 5 introduces a new poop joke instead.
Admittedly, the Scary Movie series was never meant to attract a wide array of cinema lovers. It was designed to target a specific chunk of potential ticket buyers with the promise of over-the-top humor in fun horror parodies – and, even if the series wasn’t for everyone, the films delivered worthwhile laughs to their intended audience. Unfortunately, Scary Movie 5 is a dumbed down and hollow version of the core formula – resulting in an idiotic (and unamusing) attempt at parody that is tedious not fun.
If you’re still on the fence about Scary Movie 5, check out the trailer below:
Scary Movie 5 runs 85 minutes and is Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content throughout, language, some drug material, partial nudity, comic violence and gore. Now playing in theaters.
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