Archive Review: Scary Movie (2000)

A spoof is never a bad idea, but it requires wit and the Wayans brothers don’t have it. Think back to the films that made the spoof a genre (“Airplane” and “The Naked Gun”) and there you have a commitment to nonsensical but witty humor and most of all — subtlety. 

“Scary Movie” might make a lot of people laugh with its literally balls-out mentality toward comedy, but the explicit drug and sex content is anything but clever. If the team of six writers spent half as much time making the jokes work for the plot instead of the plot working for the jokes, “Scary Movie” might have left a humorous impression on its audience. Instead, we leave feeling bad that we laughed at even some of the jokes in this movie because of how generally distasteful it is.

Meant to spoof the wave of ’90s horror films that brought back the slasher genre, “Scary Movie” combines the plot line of “Scream” with “I Know What You Did Last Summer” but fills it with goofy (and/or stupid) characters who make fun of these films’ repetitive clichés. There are also a few “faux”mages to “Blair Witch Project,” “The Matrix” and others.

When watching this movie, you can tell that different jokes were written by different writers. At times, there’s some actual cleverness, like when Shannon Elizabeth’s character gets a standing ovation for a dramatic monologue in a talent competition, only she’s actually screaming about her boyfriend who she sees being killed in the back of the auditorium. Another character taunts the killer by egging him on with descriptions of slasher clichés like “now I’ve broken my leg and I’m helpless!” That’s the good stuff.

Then there’s other writers’ humor: the killer getting high with a bunch of stoners, recurring female flatulence jokes and the gratuitous use of genitalia for a cheap laugh. It’s like they were trying to sabotage whatever comedic intelligence they put into the movie because they didn’t think people would like it otherwise.

The characters are much the same way. Avoiding stereotype versus perpetuating it is a fine line. Some of them, such as Shawn Wayans’ questionably gay athlete character, try so hard to make fun of clichés that they create new ones and others are just flat out tasteless jokes like the trans-gendered gym teacher who is preyed on for the sake of the ignorant people that find that stuff funny. 

On the good side is Cindy (Anna Faris), who gets on the map with her comedically believable performance. She plays up her stereotype of prude do-gooder but plays right into the best material i.e. the subtle jokes. Then there’s Shorty (Marlon Wayans), the idiot stoner. I suppose the Wayans brothers have creative license to make jokes about black people, but there are so many that this humor forms its own subplot in ways, like it was intended to entice the black demographic that they worried the rest of the film wouldn’t reach.

For every three effective jokes that “Scary Movie” has, there’s one horrendous one and that’s how this movie negates itself. The franchise of spoofs that this movie launched (without having seen them myself) is certainly unprecedented and unwarranted.

1.5/5 Stars

Directed By: Keenen Ivory Wayans
Written By: Marlon Wayans, Shawn Wayans, Buddy Johnson, Phil Beauman, Jason Friedberg, Aaron Seltzer
Starring: Anna Faris, Marlon Wayans, Shawn Wayans, Carmen Electra


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