Scary Movie 3

Parodies are a guilty pleasure. In some rare cases, they can offer pointed insight into the sheer silliness that drives some genres, but for the most part they’re a way to while away the time. Whether or not a spoof qualifies as a pleasant waste of time depends on the writers, the performers, and how familiar the viewer is with its target.

For horror movie fans, Scary Movie 3 is a pleasant waste of time and a welcome change from the earlier installment, the execrable Scary Movie 2. The Wayans brothers wrote and directed the first two movies in the series, and while they can be funny when they’re interested in the material (as in I’m Gonna Git You Sucka), by Scary Movie 2 they plainly were not. The result was less a spoof than a series of jokes about bodily functions.

This time, David Zucker has taken over as director, and while the references to bodily fluids and bathroom jokes aren’t entirely gone, they are kept to a merciful minimum. Instead there’s some actual humor aimed at films like The Ring, Signs, The Matrix, The Others, and 8 Mile (which, though it’s about a white rapper doesn’t technically qualify as horror.) There are also some good digs at mass media and American Idol.

Zucker seems to owe much of his approach to parody from old Mad Magazine movie spoofs, with a strong emphasis on sight gags, cameos, a little social satire, and an absolutely merciless attack on sentiment. It’s an approach that results in some truly funny moments, as when a character explains to her horrified young nephew why she took him in (among other things, her cat had died and she wanted something to feed) and when the ending of The Ring is brutally and hilariously summed up.

Scary Movie alumna Anna Faris is back as a blonde, Bambi-eyed Cindy Campbell, and Regina Hall returns as the less wide-eyed but equally clueless Brenda Meeks. Both are very good comediennes, but Regina Hall deserves special mention for her ability to be funny even while playing a corpse. There’s also Charlie Sheen as an alien-fighting farmer, Simon Rex as his rapper-wannabe brother George, Leslie Nielsen as the President, and brief but fun appearances by Pamela Anderson, George Carlin, Queen Latifah, and Camryn Manheim.

Those who groaned through the earnest sentimentality of Signs, the pretentiousness of The Matrix, or the logical holes in The Ring should find Scary Movie 3 amusing. It’s no Airplane or Young Frankenstein, but it hits most of its targets accurately enough.

Pamela Troy