To encourage us to try this form of media, every week iTunes offers one movie for rental at 99p, a considerable discount from the usual price of £3.50. Every week I review the movie that has been chosen. This week, to coincide with Halloween, they’ve selected… Airplane creator David Zucker’s Scary Movie 3.
The first Scary Movie was the first proper spoof movie for a while when it was released. Opening at a time when gross-out movies had hit their prime, it was a big success. Infused with The Wayan family’s edge and relevant humour, it was a mix of old style Zucker/Abrams puns and more contemporary American Pie-style sex comedy, and was pretty funny at times.
Scary Movie 2 was unnecessary, but the big box office of the original made a follow-up inevitable. The second film also made big bucks, but the humour fell flat. The Wayan family were out, and Zucker himself, the king of this kind of comedy in the eighties, was brought in to freshen up this third instalment.
Anna Faris is back as Cindy. She is now a news reporter, and when she comes across the story of a crop circle at a farm, she gets a feeling something big is afoot. The crop circle was discovered by Charlie Sheen’s Tom, and his brother, wannabe white rapper George. George travels into the hood to participate in his first rap battle.
Meanwhile, Faris’ friend Brenda is terrified. She watched a haunted videotape a week ago. Anyone who watches the tape dies seven days later. And that’s not seven working days either. Cindy believes the crop circle and the mysterious tape are linked. She tries to warn the country via her news station, but no-one is listening.
No-one, that is, but President Harris, Leslie Nielsen. He travels to find Cindy in an attempt to discover the truth, whilst she learns an ancient lighthouse might hold a key to the mystery. With the video broadcast across the nation, can Cindy stop the evil spirits before the population of the US is murdered by this supernatural phenomenon?
Zucker was obviously brought in to work his magic on the franchise, but it’s clearly an impossible task. Scary Movie 3 is mainly a mash-up of Signs and The Ring, two mediocre movies to start with, offering barely enough material to fill a two minute You Tube short put together in someone’s basement. All the humour is either obvious, repetitive, or just not funny.
Without decent gags, the poorly conceived story (if you can call it that) is left hopelessly exposed. Good endings are notoriously difficult to write, but when you’ve already struggled (in vain) with the beginning and the middle, you’ve got no chance. The only genuinely funny material comes at the beginning during the rap battle, and to be fair Faris’ psychic nephew does get some funny lines. But when Nielsen arrives, it turns into a pseudo naked gun story, with the finale becoming an absolute farce. And not the good kind.
Charlie Sheen is a very good comedy actor, particularly suited to this kind of humour, but is given nothing to work with. The brightest spark is Anthony Anderson (Transformers 2). He is saddled with a very generic ‘token black guy’ role, but has great comic delivery, and can make the lamest lines at least sound funny. Perhaps most impressive is Faris herself. Not necessarily for her performance, but for her unwavering commitment to the role. At the climax, when all around her are losing their acting heads, she sells her part to the bitter end.
Scary Movie 3 made a lot of money, as did Scary Movie 4. The law of diminishing returns may apply to the comedy, but not to the ticket sales. And that’s the true horror. For as long as they keep flogging this dead horse, there’s clearly no shortage of people who will pay to see it.
Scary Movie 3 is available on iTunes at the discounted rental price until Midnight Monday 2nd November. It is available to buy on DVD now, as indeed are 1,2 and 4…