Scary Movie (2000) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

In the years of writing my capsule summaries of films, and researching how the reviewers feel about various films, I have been able to establish two principles:
  1. Like Rodney Dangerfield, comedy gets no respect. Great comedies never get nominated for Oscars or reviewed with encomiums. The fifth best drama of the year is accorded four stars and nominated for an Oscar. The fifth best comedy gets panned and scorned. When reviewers or the academy do appreciate a comedy, it's always one of those stylish character-driven pieces like Tootsie or It Happened One Night, or those hyperintense black comedies like Fargo, never truly funny and/or groundbreaking comedies like Duck Soup, Blazing Saddles, The Mask, Airplane, South Park, or Bananas. Even the comedies with very serious underlying ideas, like Ground Hog Day and Love and Death, get ignored or scoffed at. I don't see anyone but me willing to say in print that South Park was about a bazillion times better movie than The Green Froggin' Mile.
  2. There is no agreement on what is funny. We seem to be able to reach reasonable consensus on good drama, but brilliant comedy movies have been panned by the guardians of our taste. (Duck Soup received no academy award nominations!) Comedy seems to go through a very idiosyncratic filter in each individual.

There may be a third valid principle, I'm not sure. It's still in the hypothesis stage, but it says that the personal characteristics which impel one to become a movie critic tend to exclude possession of a rich and encompassing sense of humor. I like to think that I can be moved by "Un Bel Di", and be awed by Finnegan's Wake, without having to abandon my equal appreciation for the lowbrow humor of Mel Brooks or the Wayans Brothers. Film critics in general seem to think that appreciating and applauding lowbrow or middlebrow humor somehow invalidates their credentials to review Titus Andronicus. Oh, poppycock. And what's more, only about five critics in the world understood enough or did enough homework to write an intelligent overview of Titus, anyway, so what credibility do they have to lose?

Scary Movie is not the kind of movie that will please stuffy critics. It is intelligent in many ways, but it is also dumb. Not to mention sophomoric, vulgar, and gross. Did I mention funny? Ah, there's the rub for the critics. It's a comedy and it's actually funny, therefore disqualifying it from Oscar consideration. Let's see. Laugh out loud at this movie a hundred times, never laugh out loud at Fargo. Yup, ipso facto, Fargo must be a better comedy, and therefore eligible for some major awards.

Nothing against Fargo, mind you, which is a wickedly brilliant film. Just making the point that actual laughter should be one of the more important criteria used to evaluate comedy, and I'm here to tell you that Scary Movie was one of the funniest movies of the year, and is one of the two best genre parodies in recent memory. (The other being Austin Powers). It does for 90's era teen slasher films what Airplane did for disaster movies and what Blazing Saddles did for Westerns. It is superficially a wicked retelling of "Scream", but also much more than that.

I think the most valuable thing I can tell you is this. I saw this movie some months ago in the theaters, and I still needed to rent the DVD. Oh, not because of the deleted scenes, although I loved 'em, but the main reason was that in the theater people were laughing so hard that I missed a bunch of subsequent jokes. I think that's not a bad recommendation. Even when I watched the DVD, my daughter snuck in to watch with me, and she was laughing so hard that I had to rewind a couple times. Then she asked me to buy her the DVD for Christmas.

Sure the Wayans brothers may not always hit the mark - nobody does - but they are the closest thing we have now to a national comedy heirloom, and they are a bunch of guys with their ears always on the railroad track of popular culture.


At first glance there is no nudity, but a freeze-frame inspection reveals some interesting flesh in two scenes:

two girls are topless in the girl's locker room

Anna Faris (or her body double) shows a bare butt to the audience in the explosive aftermath of her sex scene.

The deleted scenes in this film have more laughs than the stuff they leave in most comedies. Two examples:
  • in the scene where they dump the corpse at the waterfront, the kids ignore a "no dumping dead guys" sign on the dock, complete with international pictogram.
  • there is a brilliant conceptual piece which was cut because it slowed the pace of the film. The stoner guy is watching a murder on the outdoor surveillance tapes, but thinks he's watching a horror movie on TV. As the poor victim is knocking on the door, he answers and tells her to go away because he's in the best part of the movie, then returns to the TV and is ticked off to see the victim already dead on a familiar looking doorstep.

The Wayans have made very funny genre parodies before, but fundamentally they have sent up black filmmaking with " ... South Central ... " and " .. get ya sucka ", and some of the references were obscure for mainstream moviegoers. And frankly those movies, although scintillating in spots, are uneven.

DVD info from Amazon.

You should rent or buy it even if you have already seen the movie. Great deleted scenes, and a special DVD-ROM feature, Scary Movie: Guide for the Culturally Challenged -pop up descriptions that explain cultural references and inside jokes as you are watching the film.

This time they've extended a welcoming hand to mainstream viewers, essentially saying, "we can do more than in-jokes". Scary Movie is far above the level of those earlier films, and also targets a much more recognizable genre, and the entire broad spectrum of American Culture. Their approach is kind of like an energetic, youthful, hipper version of the Simpsons. (In fact, Rick Ducommun establishes a very strong case to play Homer Simpson if they ever make a live Simpsons movie)

They spare nobody, including themselves. They are politically incorrect, and they are funny guys.

May they make many more films, and may they continue to seek new dimensions in their humor. And may they leave the lowbrow, edgy, sexy, and offensive stuff in side-by-side with the subtleties, and may they thumb their noses at the critics in the interest of doing what they think is funny.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: just less than three stars. The two main men, Ebert and Berardinelli, did award 3/4, but Maltin 2.5/4, Apollo 51/100.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 5.9/10, Apollo 62/100
  • With their dollars ... a mammoth success. $260 million in international box will make it about the seventh highest grossing film in the world in 2000, all for a $19 million budget. Despite their tag line - "no mercy, no sequel" - Scary Movie II is already in the works.

Return to the Movie House home page