As I sat in the nearly empty theater watching Scary Movie 5, aka Scary MoVie, and as the parade of tawdry spoofs mediocred their way across the screen, my thoughts went back to the plight of John Lloyd Sullivan. The protagonist of Preston Sturges’ comedy classic Sullivan’s Travels (1941) was a filmmaker who made escapist junk. He longed to make a meaningful movie instead, and disguised himself as a homeless person to research the plight of the unwashed. What he discovered, after fate sent him to a horrifying chain gang, was that the unwashed themselves actually want escapism. If he really wanted to make a difference, Sullivan realized, he’d be better off enriching the lives of the miserable than making the rich and powerful feel guilty for a few brief hours.
But I feel sorry for any poor soul, desperate for 85 minutes of distraction from whatever unhappy circumstances befell them lately, who wanders into Scary Movie 5. Surely we have a responsibility to audiences in need of laughter, and surely we can do better than this. The fifth film in the long-running parody franchise is about as funny a kick to the crotch, and not somebody else’s crotch: your crotch. Whatever comic highlights can be found in Scary Movie 5 pale in comparison to a completely random series of YouTube clips set to run for an hour and a half, and the film’s non sequitur sketch comedy routines offer the same degree of narrative flow. Scary Movie 5 is 85 minutes long, and it speeds along with all the urgency of a truant dismissed to the principal’s office.
If ever a movie was “critic proof” it’s probably Scary Movie 5, but literally half the audience at the matinee screening in Century City today were film critics. (So that’s why they didn’t screen it beforehand.) By design, these point-and-click spoof movies are intended to distract, not properly entertain, and certainly not tell a legitimate story. The crumbling foundation of Scary Movie 5 stems from the three-month-old horror thriller Mama. Charlie Sheen dies, leaving his three children orphaned in the woods with only a demonic specter to look after them. Charlie Sheen actually has five children, by the way. And when they’re discovered, feral, in the woods, they go to his brother Simon Rex, and not Emilio Estevez, who apparently couldn’t be bothered to accept a paycheck.
Rex and his girlfriend Ashley Tisdale take the children in, set them on fire, beat them against a doorway, and watch in malaise as they stick popsicles up their butts and sniff them. Their maid, Maria (Lidia Porto), tries to warn them that there’s a demon in the house, but our heroes are too busy looking sidelong in disgust at Maria’s appearance to take notice. In a frantic effort to pad the film to a feature length running time, Rex and Tisdale are given jobs working at, respectively, the genetic research laboratory from Rise of the Planet of the Apes and the ballet from Black Swan, which aren’t even “scary movies.” These are the jokes.
Scary Movie 5 could, mathematically, be considered the classiest of the Scary Movie franchise for spoofing an honest-to-goodness book for a change, but since the book is 50 Shades of Grey, and since the film mistakenly characterizes Christian Grey as a submissive masochist, it gets no bonus points. Try actually “reading” the book next time, Scary Movie 5. It’s hardly Ulysses. You can burn through 50 Shades of Grey in a weekend. A weekend, by the way, feels a lot shorter than Scary Movie 5.
As with any broad comedy, there are moments – few and far between, but moments – where Scary Movie 5 is actually pretty funny. There’s a fun gag with the swimming pool cleaner from Paranormal Activity 2, and a good bit where the narrator loses sight of the protagonists and freaks out, wondering where they’ve gone, but those are the only jokes that are likely to stay with me as time goes on. I predict that even they will evaporate in a few days. Scary Movie 5 is so disposable it might as well come with a garbage bag. And hand sanitizer, because you will feel unclean.
A Haunted House, bad and misogynistic and homophobic though it was, was better than Scary Movie 5. A lot better. Think about that for a second, then stop thinking about Scary Movie 5 because it’s not worth it.
William Bibbiani is the editor of CraveOnline's Film Channel, co-host of The B-Movies Podcast, co-star of The Trailer Hitch, and the writer of The Test of Time. Follow him on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.