Scary Movie 5 (2013)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Scary Movie 5</strong> (2013)

(On Cable TV, February 2014) The art of the parody movie has eroded so dramatically since the ZAZ heydays of Airplane! and Top Secret! that contemporary standards for those kinds of films are, to put it mildly, abysmal. If it’s not from Friedberg/Seltzer, then it’s already a notch above the worst. If it’s not wall-to-wall covered with sadistic slapstick violence, it’s another rung up. (But I repeat myself) If it tries something slightly funnier than simply re-create scenes from well-known movies then we’re already comfortably above the bottom of the barrel. Sadly, this doesn’t mean that Scary Movie 5 is a good movie; it just means that it’s not as bad as it could have been. I suppose that anyone willingly choosing to watch this film can’t complain if it sucks: The previous installments of the series have ranged from terrible to mediocre, so it’s not as if the series has a reputation to maintain. This time around, Scary Movie 5 rounds up sequences and references to films ranging from 2010 to 2013, curiously choosing the inconsequential Mama as a framework, Paranormal Activity as methodology and delving into both Black Swan and Rise of the Planet of the Apes for extended sequences. (There are smaller, lamer riffs off Inception, The Help, Sinister and Evil Dead, as well as an attempt to spoof 50 Shades of Gray before it even comes out) It occasionally gets a few grins: The opening sequence with Charlie Sheen and Lindsey Lohan works well because Sheen handles most of the comedic heavy lifting and Lohan looks surprisingly good. There’s a beautifully absurd pool-robot-party sequence late in the film that had me giggling like an idiot, and a few gags here and there earn at least a chuckles. Anna Faris and Regina Hall are sorely missing from this fifth entry, but Ashley Tisdale does her best to step up in the lead role, understanding that in this kind of film you don’t have to be good as much as being game to do the silliest things. To its credit, Scary Movie 5 doesn’t just rely on cartoon violence and laugh-free recreations. But it rarely manages to go beyond the cheap laughs and easy targets. It seldom trusts the viewers to figure out the joke, explaining it in far too much detail and killing it in the process. (Tellingly, the best running gag of the film are the split-second glimpses of the antagonist running around in the background.) Scary Movie 5 struggles to make it to 75 minutes before adding a 15-minutes-long credit/outtake/cookies sequence. While the film has enough grins to avoid raising outrage like many of the worst examples of the genre, it’s not good enough to get more than a lukewarm okay-if-you-like-that-kind-of-thing. Frankly, when it comes to dumb Paranormal Activity spoofs, A Haunted House –itself no paragon of comic filmmaking– did it first and did it better.

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