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image1The only scary thing about the Scary Movie franchise is how much money they make. The first one appeared six years ago as a quickie written and directed by the Wayans Brothers that spoofed slasher movies. It cost $19 to make and grossed over-or maybe that should be grossed out-$150 million. Since then the franchise has prospered more than Paris Hilton’s libel lawyers.

The new one, number four, throws some recent frights into the blender-The Village, Saw, War of the Worlds, Dawn of the Dead and The Grudge-and gives them a good shake, combing all the best bits. Director David Zucker, most famous for his Naked Gun spoofs, milks the material for all it is worth. Scary Movie never met a pratfall it wouldn’t take, a flatulence joke that couldn’t be escalated to operatic proportions or an opportunity to poke fun at the elderly, the infirm or the unfortunate. No one is safe, even Oprah takes a shellacking.

If it is shocks you want with your laughs look elsewhere. Scary Movie 4 doesn’t have the icky-gross edge of the other films in this series, but there is a punch line every ten seconds or so—they don’t all land, particularly in the sparsely funny first half of this 75-minute film, but enough of them do to make this worth while for fans of the filthier and funnier movies Airplane! or Naked Gun. The film’s strongest asset is Anna Faris, a veteran of all the Scary Movies, who speaks her own brand of Japanese in the film’s best scene.

Bottom line, this is an all or nothing kind of movie. If you enjoy the idea of Dr. Phil sawing his own foot off—and who doesn’t—then Scary Movie 4 will be right up your alley. If the idea of seeing Leslie Neilson naked turns you off then maybe you should stay home and watch Masterpiece Theater instead.

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