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Scary Movie 3

Director: David Zucker
Cast: Anna Faris, Charlie Sheen, Simon Rex, Regina Hall, Anthony Anderson, Queen Latifah, Pamela Anderson, Jenny McCarthy, George Carlin, Leslie Nielsen, Ja Rule, D.L. Hughley, Fat Joe, Simon Cowell, Method Man, Redman, Macy Gray, Master P., RZA, U-God, Raekwon

(Dimension Films; US theatrical: 24 Oct 2003; 2003)

Death Warmed Over

Just when you thought the Scary Movie franchise had run out of ideas, here it comes again—looking like it’s run out of ideas. Where Shawn and Marlon Wayans’ first film was a surprisingly fresh satire of already-self-satirical slasher flicks (and, not incidentally, promised no sequels), Scary Movie 2 felt strained, scavenging “old” horror films like The Exorcist for material (also not incidentally, the Wayans were fairly vocal at the time concerning their discomfort with doing the sequel they promised not to do).


For Scary Movie 3, they have left the project to the man they ripped off to begin with, venerable director David Zucker, of Kentucky Fried Movie and Airplane! fame. Working with him is writer Pat Proft (who co-wrote the Naked Gun movies), and Craig Mazin. Together they’ve come up with a string of jokes, increasingly unfunny as they settle into something of a plot and the trajectory becomes obvious. And the string is uneven: the appearance of Michael Jackson impersonator by way of The Others is nastily entertaining, just as the abuses of Mother Teresa are arduous. Such erratic rhythms are familiar from Zucker’s previous grab bag movies, though here even the non-formula of that formula is wearing thin. Besides, the fact that he’s looking for work that copies his own, following the flat-out awful My Boss’ Daughter and Rat Race, is a little sad, but hardly surprising.


In this installment, perpetually plucky Cindy Campbell (Anna Faris) returns as a styling blond, all grown up into a tv anchorwoman (presumably, a vague nod to Courteney Cox’s Gale Weathers). She comes on a videotape that, once viewed, brings on a phone call announcing the watcher’s horrible death seven days later (here the caller occasionally sounds like Lord of the Rings’ hissy Gollum). As in Gore Verbinski’s “original” Ring, itself a remake of the Japanese Ringu, this business is introduced via a couple of not-so-smart girls discussing their experience with a certain scary “video.” Because these hyper-voluptuous Catholic School Girls are played by Pamela Anderson and Jenny McCarthy, some jokey discussion is given over to another infamous disturbing video, involving a boat. (If nothing else, Pam, a.k.a. Striperella, again demonstrates the enormity of her breasts and some bizarrely inchoate sense of her own comedic limits and values.)


Following this wacky prelude, Scary Movie 3 starts piling up the spoofs: Cindy looks up her friend Brenda Meeks (Regina Hall), whose death in the last film is apparently exaggerated, who has also seen the tape; that is, she’s going to die again, this time leading to a series of not-so-hilarious grotesqueries visited upon her corpse. Charlie Sheen appears as the damaged former Father Tom, whose farm is beset by ominous crop circles à la Signs (the scene where he flashes back to the tragic car accident includes the cutesy in-joke of Sheen’s real life wife Denise Richards as the prescient dead wife).


Here again, the film offers up the wise trooper (Camryn Manheim) is evacuated from the film almost as soon as she shows up, and the movie invites the same annoying question (this time spoken by Tom, rather than left to you): if the aliens have mastered space travel, how come wooden doors confound them? Also as before, the aliens make ostensibly spooky appearances, rustling cornstalks and trilling in the darkness. Presumably, either Alien #1 (Troy Yorke) or Alien #2 (Marco Soriano) also appears walking through the backgrounds of human assemblies, gazing at the video cameras trained their way.


One change-up comes in SM3‘s intertwining of yet a third movie’s plotline with the two primaries: Tom’s brother, George (Simon Rex), introduced via “portentous” camera spins that give Tom and George mild whiplash, is a young man with “a dream, to have a dream.” Namely, he wants to be an earnest white boy rapper, à la 8 Mile. (This is Scary Movie 3‘s best joke—8 Mile as approximate horror movie.) George’s ambition introduces the badly wigged Mekhi Phifer character, Mahalik (Anthony Anderson), who loves George a lot, and emcees the rap battles in Da Hood (only a short bus ride from the farm). In this capacity, he observes, “Finally, the white man is going to school the black man on how to rap.” And yes, George throws down with lyrics about mayonnaise and Wonder Bread, beating out Fat Joe in front of everyone.


Lest you fret that the white man does too much schooling in Scary Movie 3, The Matrix rears its cheaply digital-effected head, in the form of Orpheus (Eddie Griffin) and Aunt “Just call me the Oracle” Shaneequa (Queen Latifah, who might as well stick to the phone service commercials for all the good she’s doing her career with this role). Not that Cindy actually learns much in this episode, but Shaneequa does deal appropriate vengeance on that annoying hair-brusher in The Ring‘s hideous death’s-a-coming video.


By the time the film winds down to its several anti-climaxes, Zucker and company have apparently wholly lost steam. And so he taps his favorite go-to guy, Leslie Nielsen, to play President Harris, with Chief of Staff John Wilson (D. L. Hughley) and Secret Service Agent Thompson (Ja Rule in a suit, playing Tupac in his headset). Washington’s connections to the movie’s alien business and the videotape business actually look tenuous here, even given the obvious reason the Pres should be interested.


In any event, Harris and his security team pile into the official SUV to track down Cindy, who’s conveniently at Tom’s farm (don’t even ask how she gets there—it’s the ordained collision of plot shards) and two apparently competing sets of hiphop artists (including Method Man, Redman, RZA, Raekwon, U-God, Macy Gray, and Master P) who proceed to shoot each other dead. What this has to do with anything is something of a mystery, until you consider that, if the moral is to make nice with those who look “other” (and that message is uttered a few times here), including aliens and grisly little girls who have drowned in wells, what better way to underline the idea than to kill off the wealthiest hiphoppers, so other even to these other others?

Cynthia Fuchs is director of Film & Media Studies and Associate Professor of English, Film & Video Studies, African and African American Studies, Sport & American Culture, and Women and Gender Studies at George Mason University.


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