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.
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Jay Roach’s political comedy couldn’t have come at a better time. Just as the U.S. is beginning to suffer from the fatigue that comes with enduring the final months of the heated presidential campaign between Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis give us exactly what we need: a good laugh.
The Campaign stars Ferrell as Conservative Senate shoe-in Cam Newton who gets himself in a bit of a campaigning pickle – if you can call a widely publicized sexual slip-up a pickle – and prompts the powers that be (an evil duo courtesy of the always fantastic John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd) to bring in a ringer: Marty Huggins (Galifianakis). Huggins is flanked by his two trusty pugs and spends his days giving empty trolley tours of his tiny North Carolina town – a naïve happy existence that flummoxes his former political operator of a father (Brian Cox). But once Marty’s appointed campaign manager gangster Tim (a ruthless and surprisingly hilarious Dylan McDermott) Pretty-Womans the grinning familial misfit into a standard cutthroat political candidate the messy misinformation-driven games begin.
Everything we’ve ever feared or discovered about our shiny politicians during campaign season is magnified for the sake of this 90-minute cathartic joke. Right as Romney and Obama are getting headlines for the underhanded loosely regulated practice that is the campaign commercial Ferrell and Galifianakis’ characters take the seemingly lawless practice to a wonderful hyperbolic place where having a mustache makes you a friend of Sadam Hussein and splicing quotes to blaspheme your opponent is kosher. Oh wait that last part is actually true.
This story from frequent Ferrell collaborator Adam McKay along with Chris Henchy and Shawn Harwell plays on the clichés of the campaign trail and dresses them up with baby-punching and butt-licking. Right out of the gate we’re treated to Ferrell cheating on his wife with a squealing harlot in a porta-potty. The writers have no mercy for the political world and coincidentally neither do most of us. And even as the film stretches the limits of our ability to stomach schlocky gross gags it’s not entirely uncalled for. In fact this over-the-top flick is practically an extension of the way many of us view the idea of campaigning in the U.S. – the key is abject cynicism.
Raunchy gags are the name of the game but The Campaign doesn’t shirk the necessary weight of its source material. Sure Ferrell’s requisite nude scene merits a few giggles but it’s the moments that are centered on speeches and strategy that really make the film. They’re rife with spot-on frustrated commentary about the emptiness of political speeches and promises and draped in the hilarious inflections of the films’ funnymen.
But beyond the parts that make us laugh hard enough to eke out a sideways tear The Campaign actually has something that most raunchy Ferrell comedies only purport deliver: a heart-warming gooey center. We can chalk this up to Galifianikis’ Marty who represents the political fantasy we try to believe in every election: the existence of a truly honest well-meaning politician. He’s the guy who runs on the platform that “Washington is a mess” and he actually believes he can clean it up. When Cam is running his mouth about loving America Marty is the one who actually offers up idealistic solutions. To some extent Marty is a character we’ve seen before but he’s this bright spot that keeps The Campaign from becoming a long-form rant.
In addition to Galifianakis’ lovable Marty we find gems in the form of McDermott – whose phantom-like presence throughout the film is always worth a laugh – and newcomer Katherine La Nasa as Rose Cam’s gut-wrenchingly opportunistic Barbie of a wife. Oddly enough a big name like Jason Sudeikis receives low-billing this time around and perhaps it’s because his role is a rather mild one for a man who’s solidified himself as the overgrown frat-boy du jour. Still it’s Galifianakis who carries the film and Farrell’s usual shtick that provides the platform for his character’s unavoidable goodness.
The Campaign is a surprising oddly adorable summer comedy combining the disgusting cringe-worthy visuals we’ve come to expect from a Will Ferrell flick with the brains we hope for any time we see the word “political” tied to a film.
Disney's new movie Mars Needs Moms suffers from a classic mistake: focusing too much on one aspect of a production -- and in this case it's the visuals. The result is an unbalanced mess that looks terrific but doesn't have enough substance to leave the audience with anything more to "ooh" and "ah" at other than all the pretty colors. As we all know from that one really really hot girl/guy in high school who's now overweight and working a dead-end job looks can only go so far.
Adapted from the children's novel by Berkeley Breathed and directed by Simon Wells Mars Needs Moms follows Milo (acted by Seth Green voiced by Seth Robert Dusky) as he chases after his mother who's been stolen by Martians just a few hours after he told her he'd be better off without her. Once he arrives on Mars (by sneaking on the ship) he meets Gribble (Dan Fogler) who informs him of his problem: the Martians are ruled by a ruthless queen-like Supervisor (Mindy Sterling) who's decided that the hatchlings (babies who sprout from the ground like vegetables) must be divided: all males are thrown away into the dump and the females are raised by "nanny-bots" -- robots programmed by the "discipline" energy of good moms like Milo's from Earth. Milo and Gribble buddy-up and with the help of a rebel Martian named Ki (Elisabeth Harnois) the three of them venture to save Milo's mom before it's too late.
And venture on they do. Coming from producer Robert Zemeckis and utilizing the same motion-capture technology as The Polar Express A Christmas Carol and Beowulf Mars Needs Moms rushes forward embracing its visually stunning universe without taking a moment to stop and breathe. The characters never have a chance to do anything significant that would make the audience think they're substantial or important -- especially Gribble whom the filmmakers really really want us to care for. On top of that it relies on a plot line that we've all seen before and instead of diving into the parts that made it interesting (like the question of why men were thrown in the garbage and not women) it skims safely along the surface doing its best to avoid anything deeper than basic themes.
But that may be a little too picky. After all the movie is just supposed to be a fun little child's tale right? In that vein it succeeds. We feel like we're on an amusement park ride thanks to Ki's vibrant '60s flower-power paintings and the adventures on the Red Planet's surface. Even the moments that aren't super fast-paced present environments that are beautiful. Plus Fogler's performance as Gribble (as Jack Black-esque as it was) gives us some fun enjoyable moments and one-liners that kids will no doubt love.
Yet at the same time Mars Needs Moms' visuals aren't all glorious. In fact some hurt the plot because frankly the humans aren't animated very well. There's no life in their eyes. Simple movements like walking look awkward and too often characters facial expressions don't match the urgency found in their voices. Instead the animation just turns all the characters into weird cartoony versions of themselves that look so "almost human" they appear fake. And as always it's difficult to care for fake people.
Children will definitely enjoy Mars Needs Moms but from a filmmaking standpoint Wells really missed an opportunity to deliver something other than neat visuals and one-liners.