THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


It was only a year ago that Scary Movie rocked the box office, taking in over $150 million. The Wayans brothers' spoof of Scream and other teen horror pictures was a surprise hit. Filled with outrageous grossout humor, it marked another step in the emergence of envelope-pushing comedies. I liked it even as I was shocked by it; you know the old adage - nothing's too offensive if it's funny.

With such an enormous box office take, a sequel was probably inevitable. But like I said, the original only came out a year ago. Now we have Scary Movie 2. The sequel is like a Polaroid in the way it has almost instantly appeared. Director Keenan Ivory Wayans was reportedly still shooting the movie a mere two weeks before its release. And believe me, the movie plays just like the rush job it is.

Instead of slasher flicks, Scary Movie 2 aims its sights on supernatural thrillers. The pre-opening credit sequence spoofs The Exorcist (not exactly a new target). James Woods plays a priest trying to help a demonically possessed young girl. The Woods part was originally to be played by none other than Marlon Brando, who would have pocketed $2 million for about five minutes of screen time. He had to pull out due to illness, and I am not sure if this is good or bad. The scene involves two priests and the girl projectile vomiting into one another's faces. It might have been amusing to see Brando doing such a sicko scene, but then again, it might have been an even bigger embarrassment for the legendary actor than his pathetic turn in Christopher Columbus: The Discovery.

The only thing scary about Scary Movie 2 is how bad it is
After the credits, we return to the cast of the original movie, including innocent Cindy Campbell (Anna Faris), ambiguously gay Ray (Shawn Wayans) and perennial pothead Shorty (Marlon Wayans). Alert viewers may remember that most of the cast was killed off in the original, but here they are again anyway. In a scene suggested by The Haunting, a college professor (Tim Curry) invites them all to a haunted house. Supposedly it is part of a psychology experiment, but mostly the professor wants to have sex with frightened coeds. Almost immediately, they meet a butler (Chris Elliott) with a deformed hand and the professor's wheelchair-bound assistant (David Cross). These characters are in the movie only to be made fun of. For instance, there are endless jokes about the butler sticking his hand into people's food or touching their faces.

The first Scary Movie pretty closely followed the plot of Scream, while making occasional detours to skew other films of the genre. Scary Movie 2 abandons all semblance of plot and just starts throwing jokes against the wall to see if any of them stick (few of them do). There are parodies of famous movie moments from What Lies Beneath, Hannibal, and Charlie's Angels, to name a few. However, in this film those parodies seem to be there just to call attention to themselves. It's like the filmmakers are saying, "Look - here's a Hollow Man reference," or "Hey - we're doing The Haunting now! Get it?" Whereas the original movie used its parodies to satirize a whole movement in cinema, the sequel uses them to show off.

The grossout moments (which earned Scary Movie 2 an NC-17 on its first two trips in front of the MPAA board) are as gratuitous as they are unfunny. The Ray character is shown demonstrating his drag queen-style "tucked in" penis to his buddies. The butler has intimate relations with a cooked turkey. And, as in the first one, poor Cindy is left covered in a certain male bodily fluid after a sexual encounter. The gross bits are really desperate this time around. The film's seven (seven!) credited writers obviously are just trying to fill a quota here, as though having a certain number of outrageous gags will somehow insure the movie's success. It's not enough to be shocking; you have to be shocking with a purpose.

Here's a specific example of how the film goes wrong. I laughed at the following scene: Cindy meets up with an angry black cat who is growling at her. "I know why you're angry," she tells it. "You're mad at me because I went poopy in your litter box." Funny line. But then Wayans cuts to a close-up of said litter box. The line itself was funny; showing what we could already picture in our minds cheapens the effect.

There were maybe three or four things in Scary Movie 2 that made me laugh, but the rest of it is painfully bad. I could have overlooked the absentee plot, the characters (like those played by Tori Spelling and Kathleen Robertson) who are never introduced or explained, and the repeat use of jokes from the first film. Yes, I could have overlooked all those things had Scary Movie 2 made me laugh. It didn't. There's a fine line between comedy and shock value. The Wayans clan walked it the first time and bulldozed across it the second time.

( 1/2 out of four)

Scary Movie 2 is rated R for strong sexual and gross humor, graphic language and some drug content. The running time is 1 hour and 25 minutes.
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