It was in the final act of Scary Movie 3 that I realized, for the very first time, how alone in the world I was. Late in the movie, which I saw in theaters at age 15, director David Zucker mainstay Leslie Nielsen bolted hastily through a closed door, knocking the film's ghoulish monster to its demise before it could attack heroes Anna Faris and Simon Rex, reciting all the while the following iconic line from Airplane!: "I just want to wish you both good luck. We're all counting on you." A vehement Airplane! fan and a sucker for reference humor, I of course laughed. But nobody else, in the entire cinema — not my buddies, my then-girlfriend, or the crowd of strangers around us — joined me. "You guys don't get it?" I asked. I was alone. Nielsen's line was a joke lost on this demographic in a movie constructed exclusively For this demographic.
Scary Movie 5 rectifies this inconsistency.
The new film is built on the same model of the Scary Movies of past: a conglomeration of the horror (and a few other) films of recent years. The premises of Mama, Paranormal Activity, and Evil Dead meld with much stranger choices, like Black Swan, Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, and Inception (there are also a few nods to The Cabin In The Woods and The Help in there). Following the death of their father Charlie Sheen (who is killed by a possessed Lindsay Lohan), three young, feral kids are discovered living in a haunted cabin, and brought to the custody of their paternal uncle Dan (Rex, once again) and his child-hating girlfriend Jody (Ashley Tisdale). Accompanying the tots is an evil spirit, "Mama," who wreaks havoc on the new household. Aching to uphold her new career in ballet and hold her family together, Jody seeks the aid of her maid Maria (Lidia Porto), her Swan Lake rival (Erica Ash), a psychic (Katt Williams), a dream inception-er (Ben Cornish), and scientist Dan's hyper-intelligent monkey friend to put this evil to rest.
But while the film has a plethora of movies from which to choose for parody, it doesn't actually seem to make jokes About any of them.
The parody was constructed (and perfected in part by Zucker himself) as a means to call attention to the flaws, follies, and lovable imperfections of the genres of focus. There are a few instances in Scary Movie 5 when director Malcolm D. Lee seems to be lending his attention to the idiosyncrasies of his subjects: one prolongued shot in the film actually mimics and mocks the cinematography of Black Swan (that's the Airplane! joke of this installment). But beyond this instance, and a few jabs at the excessive surveillance camera-work in Paranormal Activity, the horror and thriller genres go relatively untouched. Instead of being parodies, they are just used as a vehicle to shove as many bits of violent and sexual humor into the hour-and-a-half entry as possible.
As such, it feels more appropriate that the likes of Inception and The Help and a few other recent pop culture phenomena (there's an entire Fifty Shades Of Grey sequence) are called to arms in Scary Movie 5. It doesn't matter that they're not scary movies, because Scary Movie 5 isn't about scary movies. It's about sex, vomiting, and racial stereotypes (every non-white character in this movie is reduced to a collection of bigoted gags). There are also horror movie references, but they're just there to get us to the scenes of a Latina housekeeper having sex with a vacuum cleaner.
And for those entirely willing to shirk off any satiric value in Scary Movie 5 just to make it to whatever gags the film has in store, troopers that you are, rest assured: the comedy that Scary Movie 5 does strive for is devastating. It's not simply that the jokes are irrelevant to the franchise's established identity. They're lazy, tossed in clumsily, redundant (So Many Scenes of babies being thrown into things), and the worst offense of the lot: they're nothing, Nothing, you have not seen before. In the shoddiest excuse for comedy films out there.
So, I think back to that fateful day in the theater, catching Scary Movie 3 on an weekend night in the autumn of my sophomore year of high school. I think about how the Airplane! reference inspired a momentary joy, reminding me of a far superior parodic exploit, and how it, albeit a moreover cheap reference, was actually somewhat of a riff on the construct of another film. One that didn't seem to really work for anyone there to enjoy Scary Movie 3. And I mourn the absence of this in No. 5. Nothing's flying over anybody's heads here:. It's all right there on the surface: babies being thrown into walls, maids shtupping household appliances, and people getting hit in the head.
Now That's good parody.
Follow Michael Arbeiter On Twitter @MichaelArbeiter
More:How the 'Mama' Trailer Saved 'Scary Movie 5''Scary Movie 5' Trailer: Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan Jump Into Bed'42' and 'Scary Movie 5' Set for Box Office Double Header
From Our Partners:40 Most Revealing See-Through Red Carpet Looks (Vh1)33 Child Stars: Where Are They Now? (Celebuzz)
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
After contemplating the plight of the corporate middle manager a decade ago with the wickedly funny Office Space Mike Judge turns his acerbic eye toward the small business owner with his latest comedy Extract. Arrested Development’s Jason Bateman stars as a Joel Reynold a successful entrepreneur who built his humble flavoring company into a thriving concern that now stands on the verge of being acquired — for a hefty sum — by breakfast cereal titan General Mills.
But just as Joel is poised to realize his dream of selling his company and retiring early everything begins to fall apart. A rash of petty robberies creates discord among his employees. An attractive flirtatious new employee (Forgetting Sarah Marshall’s Mila Kunis) leads him to ponder cheating on his aloof unaffectionate wife. And worst of all a lawsuit stemming from a freak accident on the floor of his factory threatens to bankrupt the company. The confluence of personal and professional crises soon has Joel on the precipice of disaster.
Scattered throughout Extract are the seeds of a really clever comedy on par with — or even surpassing — the venerable Office Space. The cast is certainly terrific: Bateman is the perfect choice for the beleaguered cynical yet well-meaning Joel; the always great J.K. Simmons (Burn After Reading) makes a fine counterpoint as his blunt no-nonsense second-in-command; Kunis is a superb comic femme fatale as a manipulative con artist at the heart of the pivotal lawsuit; legendary KISS frontman Gene Simmons is an inspired choice to play a shady ambulance-chasing attorney — an occupation he no doubt would have chosen had he not gotten into rock and roll; even the much-maligned Ben Affleck is effective as Dean a stoner barkeep who dispenses a hazardous combination of bad advice and hallucinogenic drugs on his best friend Joel.
For all its impressive ingredients Extract makes for a surprisingly tepid dish. Much of the same sly wit and clever characterizations that made Office Space such a delight can be found in this film but not in amounts great enough to sustain it. Most bothersome about Extract is the fact that Kunis’ character heretofore the catalyst for much of the story’s action essentially disappears for the latter third of the film. Almost as an afterthought she’s tossed a brief epilogue during the closing credits that serves to tie up all the loose ends related to her character. It’s emblematic of the movie as a whole.
One aspect of Extract that does pay off is a great subplot involving Dustin Milligan as Brad an empty-headed gigolo Joel hires as part of a disastrously ill-advised scheme to get his wife Suzie (played by SNL’s Kristen Wiig) to cheat on him first — thus clearing the ethical roadblocks (in his mind at least) for his unimpeded pursuit of Kunis’ character. But Brad ends up getting a little too wrapped up in his work making multiple follow-ups to Suzie and ultimately falling in love with his "client." The “break-up” scene between slow-witted Brad and exasperated Suzie is one of Extract’s highlights.
Joe Bowers (Luke Wilson) is about as average as one can get. He’s an electrician working for the Army doesn’t have any family. In other words he is perfect for playing a guinea pig in the government's new Human Hibernation Project. Joined by Rita (Maya Rudolph) a street-smart hooker who needs to hide out for a while they are to be kept on ice and revived a year later. But when they awaken they find out that they're almost a thousand years into the future. The project was forgotten and scrubbed their hibernation pods became landfill--and now Bowers is the smartest man on Earth. They meet Dizz (Dax Shepard) who's addicted to a lounge chair a bungling doctor (Justin Long) and the president/pro-wrestler (Terry Crews). Guess this means prognosticators--hoping for a better more intelligent future--are dead wrong.. Idiocracy effectively becomes a bunch of one-liners spliced together which really doesn’t do any of the comic talent justice. Still all the performers play rather believable idiots. Wilson turns on his easy-going charm as the least dim-witted bulb in the bunch (but never quite gets what Rita does for a living). The affable actor always shines brighter in a movie that doesn’t have “romantic comedy” in its description. Rudolph does her usual Saturday Night Live shtick while Long (Accepted) as the doctor who checks people in and out as if they were in a Jiffy Lube is hysterical even if the one-note hospital gag gets a tad tiresome. Crews is also pretty clever in his role as the dunderhead president who can't figure out how to save his planet from starvation. Why haven't you heard about this movie? Well that's the true Idiocracy. Fox seems to have rushed this little gem out failing to promote it in anyway much like they did with the cult hit Office Space. Ironically both are directed by Mike Judge (of Beavis and Butthead fame). Judge has put his finger on the pulse of what's wrong with this world and gives a bleak social commentary about our future. For example his version of the classic film of the future is a giant naked butt expelling intermittent gas every few minutes. That kind of fart film is the wave of this future run by live-action Beavis and Buttheads. Maybe Judge means to say that the people of Idiocracy’s future--who watch the Masturbation Channel and Fox News (yes that survives) and shop at stores bigger than small cities--are the descendants of those who run the studios today. Or maybe not.