Scary Movie 5

The Scary Movie franchise was not supposed to last past four installments. The original plan was for the films to be done after Scary Movie 4, but because that one made money, Scary Movie 5 exists. They at least gave the series a break, with this one coming out seven years after its predecessor. There have also been some changes to the formula, meaning I will actually have something to talk about.

The basic idea has not changed. The film uses a couple of different films as a basis for the spoofs. The main plot is a Paranormal Activity/Mama cross. A young couple, Jody and Dan (Ashley Tisdale and Simon Rex), wind up adopting the fictional children of Charlie Sheen, who have been lost in the woods for some time and believe they see some sort of “Mama.” One of them is a generic scary kid, one of them acts like whatever animal the plot calls for at the time — although usually a dog — and the other is a baby. They get the kids on the condition they also take over a large suburban home (no, it doesn’t make sense) and soon enough things start going wrong.

So, the main conceit is that all of the Paranormal Activity trouble is caused by Mama. Okay, that’s an organic and clever enough way to bring these two plots together. It doesn’t allow for a lot of creativity — in fact, much of the film involves long, drawn-out retreads of scenes from both of those films, but “funny.” There are a couple of interludes, like how Jody does the ballet parts of Black Swan, a Dom Cobb impersonator shows up (Inception), apes go haywire like in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a fraudulent paranormal investigator makes fun of Insidious, and there’s an odd scene riffing on the Evil Dead remake, which is really weird because it was released only a week earlier than Scary Movie 5.

Despite all of these different movies being spoofed in one, this feels like the most coherent Scary Movie since the first one. You can at least kind of see how all of these things can be in one movie, and as a result you’re not thinking it’s too outrageous, even when much of the spoofing is. It doesn’t overload your capacity to accept what it’s showing you.

This is the first Scary Movie film to not star Anna Faris and not have a supporting role turned in by Regina Hall. This might please some people, although the film does feel less because of their absence. And it feels as if roles were written with them in mind, but since they declined other actors took their place. The lead, Jody, could have easily been Faris’, while her rival in the Black Swan spoof seemed perfect for Hall.

It also somewhat messes with the continuity of the series. Charlie Sheen had a role in the previous two Scary Movies, but here he’s playing himself. That’s just confusing. Sheen played one of the main characters in Scary Movie 3. A few other actors appear, too, and they’re also all playing different roles. I get wanting to distance yourself from the earlier films — intermittently funny as they might have been — but this isn’t the way to go about it, especially to fans who have sat through four previous installments.

The jokes are different here, too. Chapters 1-4 took the approach of throwing as many jokes at the screen as they could and hoping at least some of them worked. Scary Movie 5 doesn’t attempt the same strategy. Instead, it uses only those that its filmmakers think have a moderately good chance of being a success. The result is a film that seems less humorous, even if the amount of times you laugh will still be around the same — it just doesn’t feel as funny because it’s not puking on someone every few seconds.

With that said, there are definitely some jokes that go on for way too long, and for a film that runs for just over 70 minutes before the credits start — which is then padded by outtakes, deleted scenes and alternative scenes — there shouldn’t be any filler. The film should be moving through at such a pace that no jokes should be lingering past their expatriation date. That happens a few times here, which is unfortunate, as some good ideas get pushed aside for repetition.

So, is Scary Movie 5 a success? Not really, but then apart from the first film, none of them truly are. Save for Scary Movie 2, which was mostly an unfunny bore, they’ve all had a moderate amount of laughs scattered through a really short running time. That’s about all that you need in a spoof movie. Am I laughing a reasonable amount of times? The answer is “yes.” It’s not good, but it’s funny enough that you probably won’t regret the just-over-an-hour you spend with it.

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