Full disclosure: I giggled through much of Scary Movie V. Then again, I’m the kind of guy who finds a log of poop wrapped in a banana peel and presented as food to be pretty funny.
The fifth instalment of the not-so-venerable parody series keeps on keeping on; clearly aimed at 13 year old boys, Scary Movie V is a litany of kicks to the balls, whacks to the head, farts, pratfalls and not very subtle riffs on popular movies of the last few years. Some of the jokes actually work, while some work only on the level of being so absurdly stupid you can’t believe they put it on film. And then most of the jokes are just sort of there, never exactly working.
This time out the film spoofs the Paranormal Activity series (huge points for an extended Haunted Pool Cleaner gag!), Black Swan, Rise of the Planet of the Apes,Evil Dead 2013, Inception, Fifty Shades of Grey, Insidious and most, of all, Mama. Lots and lots of Mama. The way the movie parodies are woven through a larger ‘narrative’ is actually impressive in that it almost works as a ‘story.’ But nobody is coming to the fifth Scary Movie for a yarn, they’re coming for lots of scenes of babies being set on fire, being blown out of tubas, smashed into doorways and otherwise abused.
There’s a sub-Mad Magazine quality to the comedy. You can see the Jack Davis layouts right there on screen. If Airplane! was Mad Magazine at its absolute best, a real genius work of insanity, this is Mad Magazine on a particularly off issue. You’ll still laugh, and maybe the Fold-In has quality, but generally this is an issue you don’t bother trying to get back after the teacher confiscates it.
What will likely get the most attention is the opening of the film, which has Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan playing themselves making a sex tape in a haunted house. This is deadly stuff as Sheen and Lohan are comedy black holes - they’re so bad they make dismal star Simon Rex come across like Leslie Nielsen. Thankfully once the awful, self-referential opening is over (and after a pretty tedious bit involving Snoop Dogg and the intolerable Mac Miller), things get moving a bit. The structure of Scary Movie V is a mess, so there are long stretches of time when just nothing funny is happening, but every couple of minutes they’ll bust out a joke so dumb, so base, so juvenile, that you have to smile.
Part of the problem is that there's no Anna Faris in this cast. Ashley Tisdale is fine, but she doesn't have the comic chops to be a background player on Saturday Night Live, let alone the lead in a parody movie. David Zucker co-wrote Scary Movie V, but his casting touch is missed. There are some fine secondary players but none of the leads really bring it. With better comic talent many of the flat jokes might have actually elicited laughs.
There’s a lot of weird racial comedy in the film, but somehow that feels... okay. There’s a hispanic maid and a booty dancing black girl (as well as an appearance by Madea, but I digress), but the way they’re used reminds me of when my family howls at Italian stereotypes in movies. The audiences for Scary Movie V will be very ‘urban,’ as they say in the biz, and I think that these racial bits are actually aimed there, not as much at the dopey white teens in the suburbs.
Is Scary Movie V good? Not on any defensible level. Did I laugh? Yeah, but rarely belly laughs - lots of chuckles at things like a little girl waterboarding her dolly, lots of putting my head in my hands and giggling at things like a Leonardo DiCaprio imitator bringing a dog into a dream (full of fucking poodles),a couple of hearty LOLs at hyper-intelligent apes flinging shit. That’s not bad for a movie called Scary Movie V, I suppose.