Scary Movie 3 (United States, 2003)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

When the filmmakers started out two films ago, the Scary Movies were funny. Since then, it has been a rapid decline through mediocrity into near-unwatchability. Absent for this third installment are the Wayans Brothers, who are replaced by David Zucker and his scribe-for-hire, Pat Proft. If there's one thing this motion picture proves, it's that The Naked Gun 33 1/3 wasn't the final insult from a founding ZAZ (Zucker/Abrams/Zucker) member; this is.

Only two weeks after foisting their last greed-impelled cinematic atrocity upon us (a drawn-and-quartered Kill Bill), Miramax (a.k.a. Dimension) is at it again. There's only one reason Scary Movie 3 exists, and it has nothing to do with creativity, comedy, or the need to give Charlie Sheen a job. These movies are cheap to make and they are proven box office performers. Frankly, the film could take in $20 million during its first week out, then not earn another cent, and it would still be considered a solid performer. So we're doomed to endure more Scary Movies after this one. Scary thought.

Two decades ago, David Zucker and Pat Proft were responsible, in one form or another, for a pair of the funniest saturation comedies to reach the big screen: Airplane! and The Naked Gun. Lately, they have been slumming, and their tenements have gotten progressively more dilapidated with every effort. Zucker recently directed My Boss' Daughter, and Proft was responsible for Mr. Magoo. Not good signs. There are about three or four genuine laughs in Scary Movie 3, and a lot of failed jokes in between. Even a National League pitcher gets more hits. Once, these guys were funny, but they have stayed around too long, and their comedy has grown more flaccid than an overcooked noodle. There's a sense of desperation lurking just beneath the surface of this film - the desperation of men who need someone to laugh at them, but have forgotten how to provoke the desired reaction.

Apparently, Kevin Smith was involved in the screenwriting process at one point, although there doesn't seem to be anything remaining that could have come from his pen. Scary Movie 3 is an uninspired parody of three recent, popular movies: 8 Mile, Signs, and The Ring. The only relationship it has with the previous two Scary Movies is that lead actress Anna Faris is back as Cindy Campbell. This time, she's dropped into the middle of a combination alien invasion/ghost story. After watching a killer video tape, she has only seven days to live, and, in that time, she has to stop a deranged ghost living in a well, fall in love with a white, self-doubting rapper named George (Simon Rex), and help the President (Leslie Nielsen) stymie an invasion by aliens who have a fondness for the corn field of a minister-turned-farmer (Charlie Sheen).

Parodies are only funny when the barbs are pointed and on-target, and those are two of the least likely adjectives to be used when describing Scary Movie 3. None of the comedy is daring (not an unusual trait for a PG-13 movie). There's some gross-out material and various indignities are performed on a corpse, but that stuff is pretty tame by today's standards. The weaving together of the primary three inspirations is done inelegantly. Zucker and Proft obviously don't care about plot; normally, the viewer wouldn't, either. However, with so much of the humor failing, it becomes increasingly obvious that there's not much of a storyline to fall back on, and that makes Scary Movie 3 a colossal waste of time.

Cameos abound, presumably in a vain attempt to distract us from how tedious this movie is. But, like the stars and the screenplay, they're second rate. Some of the biggest names are Denise Richards (playing Charlie Sheen's wife), Ja Rule, Camryn Manheim, Pamela Anderson (looking artificial), Jenny McCarthy (looking old), Simon Cowell (hoist by his own petard), Queen Latifah, and George Carlin. Carlin's appearance is the most frustrating. For someone who almost always gets a laugh, Carlin (playing the Matrix's architect) comes across as flat. Likewise, Queen Latifah (as the Oracle) shows little spark.

Of the leads, Anna Faris is her usual perky self, Charlie Sheen appears somewhat bewildered (maybe he couldn't believe how bad the movie is), and Simon Rex is about the unlikeliest and most unlikable love interest one is apt to find. Then there's the sad case of 77-year old Leslie Nielsen, who spends his limited screen time trying to re-create the kind of comedic bumbling that became his meat-and-potatoes when he re-invigorated his career in the '80s. Now, this routine is tired, repetitious, and devoid of energy - which is a pretty good way to describe the movie as a whole. The cast and crew of Scary Movie 3 might be able to strike the funny bone occasionally, but the rhythmic thudding of the dud jokes as they miss their targets is enough to put just about anyone to sleep. This is comedy at its worst - the kind of thing that makes Saturday Night Live circa 2003 seem innovative and fresh.

Scary Movie 3 (United States, 2003)

Director: David Zucker
Cast: Anna Faris, Charlie Sheen, Simon Rex, Regina Hall, Leslie Nielsen, D.L. Hughley
Screenplay: Pat Proft
Cinematography: Mark Irwin
Music: James L. Venable
U.S. Distributor: Dimension Films
Run Time: 1:20
U.S. Release Date: 2003-10-24
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Profanity, Violence, Sexual Situations)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1