By Lisa Schwarzbaum
July 21, 2000 at 12:00 PM EDT
Dimension Films/Everett Collect
  • Movie

The only thing scary about Scary Movie is the blithe voraciousness with which Dimension Films, Miramax’s hard-charging anti-arthouse division, is willing to eat its own children to disgorge a box office hit. The same folks who proudly sponsored Scream (funny), Scream 2 (even more clever), and Scream 3 (relatively funny but enough’s enough) now back a cheerfully gross, dirty, funny, messy parody that cannibalizes what was already a cannibalization of less ironic teen-in-peril horror formulas. That this canny carny act, directed by Keenen Ivory Wayans, marks the end of the wiseacre, self-referential, disappearing-up-their-own-butts cycle of youth-market movies, one can only pray.

At the very least, the arrival of Wayans’ rude, raunchy, throw- away spoof means the Farrelly brothers will have to up their ante in the future, stretching beyond their usual punchlines of tushies and body fluids to generate comparable howls of shocked laughter. Wayans, who previously dabbled in genre mockery with I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, now takes swipes at I Know What You Did Last Summer, The Matrix, American Pie, The Usual Suspects, The Sixth Sense, Dawson’s Creek, and The Blair Witch Project, among other targets. In an homage to/theft of Farrelly mojo, he also gets a lot of mileage out of rubbery testicles (I hope they’re rubber), and a springy hillock of synthetic pubic hair.

Mostly, though, Wayans deconstructs the Scream paradigm: Someone, wearing a familiar Edvard Munch-inspired mask and wielding a Last Summer grappling hook, is killing a lot of idiotic high schoolers. (Faced with directional signs pointing the way to SAFETY and DEATH, one foolish nymphet — played deliciously by Carmen Electra, leaving a dangerously tumescent bag of Jiffy Pop unattended — therefore chooses death.) Newcomer Anna Faris holds the Neve Campbell/good girl position; improv comic Dave Sheridan out-dumbs David Arquette as a less-than-genius cop; and SNL‘s Cheri Oteri seethes appropriately as a crazily aggressive broadcast bitch tracking the murders, so she can publish a follow-up to her best-seller You’re Dead, I’m Rich.

Wayans doesn’t possess nearly the filmmaking finesse of the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker team that created the sublime Airplane! and The Naked Gun movies. But (with screenplay help from his brothers and cast members Shawn and Marlon, along with four other credited writers) the director retains a serviceable sense of slapdash, see-what-sticks, gross-out moreness. Scary Movie stacks titillating sexual jokes on top of spiked racial barbs on top of lame-o visual puns and just plain cheap misfires. The whole thing wobbles, like the garish, trashy, sexy shoes the young folks are wearing this summer on their way (in droves) to movie theaters, intent on abandoning themselves to pleasurable mindlessness. It’s a sight to make the omnivores at Dimension scream with delight. B

  • Movie
  • R
  • 88 minutes
  • Dimension Films
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