Scary Movie 3 David Zucker 2003

"The Shlocky Horror Minstrel Show"
Let me begin by saying that I own the first two "Scary Movie" films, a fact that I am forced to defend on a regular basis to my friends, who cannot understand the attraction. Fun, irreverent, and timely, the films twisted and pecked current genre films to the point where they were sometimes no longer recognizable, and played out the humor buried inside with likeable, talented casts that included the impeccable Anna Faris, Damon and Marlon Wayans, Regina Hall, David Cross, Andy Richter, James Woods, and many more. The fact that the writer and director and half of the cast were black was interesting, but not integral to the films; the focus was on the crackerjack execution of horror film parodies, and the outcome was enormously entertaining and successful -- particularly in the case of the original, which was Miramax's breakout hit of 2000.

Now, several years after the somewhat less-successful (although very funny) "Scary Movie 2", the reins have been handed over to a new batch of writers and a new director, and the results are staggering. "Staggering home drunk"-type staggering. "Staggering through a field of fresh corpses"-style staggering. Because somehow, the fine folks at Dimension have managed to turn in what may supplant "The Matrix: Reloaded" as the Worst Movie of the Year.

The basic problem, before I go and get all pedantic, is that the film IS NOT FUNNY. I mean, AT ALL. When you walk out of a theatre and realize that your biggest (and only) laugh came from the sight of two dogs driving tractors, you know that you've just been had. There are stretches of tens of minutes without a single gag, which in my mind flies in the face of what comedy is all about (but call me old-fashioned). The best jokes are stupid sight gags, like a growing police hat, which have nothing to do with the story or characters at all and could easily have come from cut scenes of the directors previous (and actually good) efforts, "Top Secret" or "Airplane" (he even goes so far as to have Leslie Nielsen, as the President, deliver one of the catchphrases from "Airplane", in a particularly groan-inducing moment). The new cast members are instantly forgettable, including former wank-film star Simon Rex and Anthony Anderson (Poet from "Oz"), who really have nothing to do other than deliver near-verbatim dialogue from "8 Mile" and pretend to have unrequited sexual tension between them (an element that's only there for "shock value"; the audience I saw wasn't "shocked" by this radical use of gay subtext, unless they were shocked into complete silence, or perhaps comas). Charlie Sheen is likeable enough but has very little to work with, which includes his airhead wife Denise Richards, criminally underused in a scene which shows off neither her blowsy bad acting nor her breasts.

The only thing that kept my ass in the seat (besides a nice big bag of Crispy M&Ms) was my love of Regina Hall and Anna Faris. In the first film, these two newcomers held their own against comedy vets like the Wayanses and Sheri Oteri, and in the second had some of the funniest bits of the movie. I'm thrilled that Faris is finally getting noticed for her star turn in "Lost in Translation" (even her supporting role as the predatory lesbian in "May", although over-the-top, was consistent and dead-on), and it really, really hurt me to have to watch her wade through this shit. Hall, whose Brenda is the most consistently funny character in all of the films, is also terribly underused -- I wonder if the fact that she is replaced by a rubber dummy for her final two scenes was by the request of the Regina herself. Lesbian-potent Camryn Manheim plays the Cherry Jones role from "Signs" (and hey -- they're right. If you need a fatter Cherry Jones, it would indeed by Camryn Manheim. Congrats -- somewhere in LA a casting agent can look up from his mountain of cocaine and smile in accomplishment.), and the rest of the cast is filled out with -- and here's where the fun begins -- about 25 rap and hip-hop stars of varying degrees of ability and accomplishment.

Folks, this film is the "Uncle Tom's Cabin" for Stupid White People. Apparently the makers of the film forgot that it was called "Scary Movie" and thought that it was called "Racist Movie" instead. Sure, the original films played well to black audiences (or, in the infinitely insulting lingo of market research firms everywhere, "urban audiences"). Why not -- they were made by black filmmakers and had black performers, and hey -- they were funny! The stories and characters didn't deal with race except for a gag here and there (usually a reference to another film that was race-centered, like "Save the Last Dance"), and they didn't need to -- it's a horror spoof, for Christ's sake. But now it seems that, the control having been passed on to a bunch of white folks determined to mine the cash of these black audiences, the focus has been shifted to making white people look stupid and boring while the black people listen to music and hang out.

Is this the formula for capturing that "urban" audience? Think about this: there were 4 previews before the screening of this film, and every one of them had all-black or mostly-black casts. This is incredibly telling when you think about whom the exhibitors and studios see as being their target audience. So then wait -- why are all the main characters of the film white (excepting Hall, who dies early on), and all of the peripheral characters black? Wouldn't you think that, if the studio was trying to reach a black audience, they'd make black actors the stars? Instead of this simpler approach (which would no doubt then alienate the white folks out there who won't go see "black movies"), the filmmakers have come up with a unique and revolutionary formula not used since the eary 20th century: we'll make the whities look like harmless idiots and fill the supporting cast with rappers! We'll abandon the horror film thing and instead make race the topic of every scene, every joke, every gag -- including a painfully unfunny 20-minute scene from "8 Mile", which was not even a horror film, unless you count Eminem's acting ability.

In the shameful days of the Minstrel Show, we had Stepin Fetchit, an insulting, dehumanizing characature of a black man who will bow and scrape to please and entertain the powerful white man. Well, now we have Slipin Dropit, a one-dimensional slip of a white person who is so stupid, so clumsy, and so funk-challenged that they elicit knowing head-shakes and rolled eyes from their black co-stars. God almighty. Do the filmmakers -- white filmmakers, remember -- really think that their audiences -- black or white -- are this stupid? Aren't we past the days of such simplistic, uninspired, backward-facing comedy? I mean, intelligent comedies about race have been made (check out "Bulworth", "Bringing Down the House", or anything by Robert Townsend). Hey, maybe I'm wrong -- maybe there's still a need for apologetic race films like this one; maybe the white folks still have more years of inexcuseable oppression to pay off. And if this is the case, and if making shit like this film is the only way to accomplish it, I roll over and gladly grant the healing process its path in the interest of harmony and equality among the races.

But in the interest of quality filmmaking, I still think that the "Scary Movies" should be put back into the hands of the brothers. The Wayans brothers, that is.

Rating (out of 5): NONE