Ryan Chartrand

The “Scary Movie” series has been on a downward spiral ever since its comedy shifted from R-rated to PG-13 humor. With the Wayans brothers no longer aboard the writing team and only a few worthy horror movies to parody, the latest in the series, “Scary Movie 4,” should have been a complete failure. Surprisingly enough, they get the job done. But is this film, which contains an hour of farts and fall-down jokes, worth the theater visit?

Fans of the series might as well give in, make the trip and try to force as many laughs as possible. Anyone who can’t decide whether to see it, however, should keep reading.

The plot revolves primarily around a parody of “War of the Worlds” with an alien invasion planned by the clown from “Saw.” As always, Anna Faris plays the brain-dead female star and joining the cast is Craig Bierko, a TV actor with decent comedic talent. When it comes to forced, cheesy acting, I suppose you can’t get much better. After all, how do you cast the part of “woman who gets a sponge of urine rubbed all over her face”? Looking for one of R. Kelly’s fans might be a good start.

Director David Zucker, the brilliant mind behind “Airplane,” had to dig deep when looking for films to parody considering the lack of horror flicks in the past few years. While throwing in the disturbing Japanese kid from “The Grudge” was easy, Zucker had to resort to films like “Brokeback Mountain” for desperate jokes. And although these references might be funny, it’s depressing to realize how much the comedy is being forced. Are the minds behind “Scary Movie” even trying anymore? If the audience can make up better jokes, something must be wrong.

The problem with the “Scary Movie” series is that the majority of the jokes will either make no sense or simply not be funny six months down the road (some jokes may even expire before the DVD is released). With that in mind, “Scary Movie 4” does throw in some pretty humorous American culture references, such as iPod, MySpace and everything that makes Tom Cruise so ridiculous. On the other hand, there are also several jokes that fall flat on their faces and receive the “cricket effect” from the audience. Overusing the idea that pain equals comedy has caused this same effect in previous “Scary Movie” films and stays true in the latest. Nonetheless, seeing Mike Tyson rapidly bite people’s ears off is always a good time in my book, but who dares reuse Mike Tyson jokes?

The jokes are there, but their random and crude nature will only fly with fans of the genre. Bringing out the President Bush jokes through the nudity of Leslie Nielsen (long story) could be reason enough to either avoid it or see it immediately.

If you’re expecting a drastic change from the quality of “Scary Movie 3,” this might be a good time to reminisce with the original “Scary Movie.” The missing Wayans brothers and a rather poor selection of films to parody make “Scary Movie 4” a film looking for jokes. Although it finds them most of the time and has enough laughs to make a Friday night enjoyable, I’m afraid the days of truly great parodies have been scared away.

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