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Scary Movie 3
2003 - PG-13 - 83 Mins.
Director: David Zucker
Written By: Pat Proft
Starring: Anna Faris, Charlie Sheen, Simon Rex, Regina Hall, Darrell Hammond, Pamela Anderson, Jenny McCarthy
Review by: John Ulmer

This portrait doesn't look anything like me!
Spoofs are arguably the hardest genre for any film critic to review, primarily because you can only comment on whether it succeeds or not at what it is trying to do, and little else. The worst thing to do (and the same thing that often appears the most) is for a critic to start giving away the memorable jokes of the film -- something I don't intend on doing.

Truly, spoofs are almost impossible to criticize. At least with other genres you can comment on characters/acting, interaction, direction, scriptwriting and dialogue, and so on and so forth, whereas spoofs are intended to just consume roughly ninety minutes of one's life with a barrage of rapid-fire jokes. Sometimes they hit, and sometimes they miss. (And with "Scary Movie 3," the latter is often times the final verdict.) Let's face it: no one gives a hoot about the cinematography of a slapstick spoof. It's like criticizing "The Godfather" for featuring too many gangsters.

You can't even comment on realism for spoofs. This is the type of movie where a character gets run over by a car, repeatedly hit with a baseball bat, thrown out a window and slapped with a shovel, yet still appears in the next scene. Or the type of movie where a toothbrush or hotdog will suddenly generate to be used as a prop, and then thrown away, as if the character using them had the items concealed in his or her pocket for years on end, just waiting to use them for a practical joke.

So, as a spoof, "Scary Movie 3" succeeds, but as a funny movie, it's only so-so. This film is directed by David Zucker, one of the members of the famous ZAZ trio, who brought us "The Kentucky Fried Movie," "Airplane!", "Top Secret!", "The Naked Gun" and so many more. They eventually split up; forming their own separate films, but the slapstick humor is still present.

What is not present, however, are the repetitive good gags. In "Scary Movie 3," there are some funny jokes, then long silences, then some pitifully unfunny jokes that we knew the director intended us to laugh at, then some jokes that completely misfire and go the other way. But occasionally there are the big laughs -- like when a man comes to a car crash (here I go spoiling a joke!) and finds his wife pinned to a tree. "Hey Tom," the driver of the car that hit her yells from the side of the road. "I'm gonna need a ride home!"

The man he is addressing is Tom Logan (Charlie Sheen), an under (or over) whelmed farmer who awakens one day to find a crop circle outside his house. "What do they want?" his brother George (Simon Rex) asks. (Which is when the camera zooms out to an overhead shot and we see a large arrow that says, "Attack here!")

For a spoof, some of the plot holds together fairly well, and manages to have key characters interact with each other for a purpose. However, seeing how it's such a typical spoof, a lot of it doesn't hold together -- like when Cindy (Anna Faris) enters a lighthouse and finds an old man who lets her in on an ancient myth. What is he doing there? How did he get there? Why does he sit there all day in his chair waiting to make fun of "The Matrix Reloaded"? How has he even seen "The Matrix Reloaded"? These are the type of questions you simply do not ask yourself while viewing a slapstick comedy.

Cindy, one of two returning characters from the franchise, is now a blond-haired reporter working at a corrupt, sex-frenzied news station. When the news of these crop circles crosses her path, she finds herself haunted by a mysterious videotape that kills its victims in seven days. (During the opening sequence, Pamela Anderson and Jenny McCarthy are the unlucky individuals who find themselves under the wrath of the tape. Pamela tells Jenny that television rays can melt silicone and they immediately panic.)

All this must sound very familiar, and it is, because the various plot introductions are all borrowed from 2002's most popular horror films, most notably "Signs," "The Ring" and "8 Mile." (Which, as far as I knew, was a drama -- but never mind that. It didn't stop Zucker from tearing it a new one.)

To be fair, most of the attention is given to "Signs," which is a good thing, since it was my favorite film of 2002 and I've memorized quite a bit of it. I appreciated the recaps of many scenes. If you had ever wanted to know what "Signs" would have been like as a comedy, check "Scary Movie 3" out. But then again, after what I've heard, some people did leave "Signs" laughing.

Everything is spoofed, from the knife under the door to M. Night Shyamalan's drunk driver. (We've got a similar-looking man here with the same glum face playing his role.) There are some nice twists on the tale ("Don't call me dude! I'm not a stoner anymore!") but none of them are truly hilarious. Only a few had me howling in laughter. Most of them just had me doing those laughs that are borderline dog barks.

For a PG-13 film, "Scary Movie 3" has edge, but it lacks bite. There are the rare jokes I couldn't believe saw the light of day, such as when the President (Leslie Nielsen) punches and kicks disabled folk after mistaking them for aliens, or when a woman compares how frightening an event was to "seeing an Asian person behind the wheel of a car headed your way." But these are more crude jokes than exploitative. The original "Scary Movie" (in which Faris died her hair black in an effort to evoke memories of Neve Campbell from "Scream") was directed and written by the Wayans Brothers, and was noteworthy for its hardcore R-rated humor and nudity. "Scary Movie 3" has what some may consider even cruder jokes (such as when extraterrestrial beings demonstrate how they urinate), but for the most part, it's rather juvenile.

I was quite disappointed in Charlie Sheen's downplay during the film, too. He isn't given enough to do here, in a field he is a veteran of. Zucker may have benefited from giving Sheen more screen time, because this is arguably his best field of acting (come on, be real, he's not the greatest actor in the world). He's sort of pushed to the site here, running around looking old and tired, recycling Mel Gibson's role from "Signs" and appearing as if he's about to collapse and yell Roger Murtaugh's infamous line from "Lethal Weapon." You all know what it is. He's just too old for this...uh...stuff.

But Sheen is great at doing deadpan slapstick, in the same sort of role that Nielsen invented with "The Naked Gun." Charlie copied this persona with "Hot Shots!", then again with the-not-so-hot "Hot Shots Part Deux!", and I think the reason he's so funny is because he comes across as such a serious guy, and amidst a barrage of insanely ludicrous jokes, he manages to maintain a straight face and act very demanding -- just like his father.

And the movie has its fair share of cameos, such as when Queen Latifah shows up to spoof the Oracle, or when Darrell Hammond ("SNL") appears as a priest who seems overly-excited to be babysitting Cindy's young nephew, or even when the infamous Simon of "Pop Star"/"American Idol" speaks up at a rap battle and informs the audience that he thinks the performers are absolutely appalling. But a lot of these scenes -- including one in which Sheen confronts a Michael Jackson impersonator and demands to know what he's done with his little girl -- lack bite. They seemed a lot funnier on the trailer, but then again, a lot of these movies always do. It's fairly easy to splice together funny segments of a scene for a theatrical trailer, as opposed to keeping the momentum throughout the movie.

Still, despite its pros, "Scary Movie 3" somewhat disappointed me on an overall basis. It's decent enough fare for a video rental, but this is a spoof nowhere close to the high level of "Airplane!" or "Naked Gun." I can't even recommend it like I did for "Scary Movie." It's got its moments and a top-notch cast, but it's nothing special. In the end, it comes across as a pretty mediocre recap of the year's horror (and not-so-horrific) films -- a trend we may be seeing more of.

It's OK but nothing that hasn't been done twice already -- even if it is sometimes better than its predecessors in a few ways.
Movie Guru Rating
Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable.
  2.5 out of 5 stars

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