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Only scary -- or funny -- the first time

The Wayans brothers' second installment of bad taste lacks the imagination and spark of the first.


© St. Petersburg Times, published July 5, 2001

The Wayans brothers' second installment of bad taste lacks the imagination and spark of the first.

The Wayans brothers are in the house again, and this time it's haunted. The funniest, grossest siblings this side of the Farrelly brothers promised no sequels for their surprising 2000 hit, Scary Movie.

Ads for the sequel, Scary Movie 2, admit the Wayanses lied. That's okay. Lying down on the job isn't.

The most shocking thing about Scary Movie 2 is how routinely the humor plays this time. We witness phony projectile vomiting and ejaculation, see absurd genitalia and watch simulated sex acts of all types. But there's little spark in the setups, and laughter feels like a cheated reflex. The best filmmaking style is displayed only when other movies are being imitated.

Stooping as low as you can go to be funny doesn't necessarily mean reducing imagination. The original Scary Movie marauded through boundaries of good taste; its originality was based on the fact that nobody was bold enough to try these gags before. Scary Movie 2 figures all barriers have been knocked down, so let's just stroll through the wreckage.

Maybe haunted house movies aren't as ripe with comic potential as the original's Scream theme. Certainly, there aren't as many opportunities for violent/sexual jokes and pop culture spoofs. This one is modeled on The Haunting and The Legend of Hell House, and who remembers those films fondly?

Limited personalities range from oversexed (Shawn Wayans' ambiguous Ray) to stoned (Marlon Wayans' Shorty) to available screamer (Regina King's Brenda). Anna Faris reprises her Neve Campbell impersonation as Cindy. Each of them is whatever the joke calls for them to be, like vaudeville performers. When the joke is good, they're good. That doesn't happen as much in Scary Movie 2.

The gang is recruited by a horny college professor (Tim Curry) to spend a night in a haunted mansion. They'll be observed by the professor's testy assistant (David Cross), who becomes the butt of too many jokes about paralysis and wheelchairs. There's also a grotesque caretaker (Chris Elliott) with a horribly deformed hand that caresses cheeks and food for maximum gag effect.

As before, director Keenen Ivory Wayans carelessly links scenes based on horror movie conventions. The opening Exorcist sequence, starring a fabulously loose James Woods, is a decent start. The ghostly rapes of countless fright flicks get a workover, and the Poltergeist clown puppet finds something lewd wrapped around his throat, dragging him under a bed.

Interesting, though, that when a Regan O'Neil look-alike urinated on the carpet, a mostly young preview audience groaned, but many didn't seem to get the connection to The Exorcist. Just another bodily fluid joke, as if they never saw the classic film being plagiarized. They're more in touch with spoofs of Save the Last Dance and Dude, Where's My Car? tossed in for R-rated youth market appeal.

It's easy to be topical when scenes are apparently composed on the spot. Jokes about Firestone tires and The Weakest Link prove how late this material was being refined to fill 80 minutes, counting the end credits. Some scenes feel like overestimated first takes. Others, like Elliott's rambling shenanigans, are in dire need of editing. The trash-talking parrot, though, is a hoot. Maybe Scary Movie 3 should be based on The Birds.

The most mature sight gag is a stale Florida ballot joke. The most imaginative is a Little Shop of Horrors-style marijuana plant rolling its own brand of joint. The most outrageous is a Titanic tryst turning first aid into an explosive masturbation encounter. Don't ask what order in which they occurred. Narrative is nothing to the Wayanses when they're rolling. You remember Scary Movie 2 for the gross-out parts, not the whole, and not for long.


Scary Movie 2

Grade: C

Director: Keenen Ivory Wayans

Cast: Anna Faris, Shawn Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Tori Spelling, Regina Hall, David Cross, Chris Elliott, James Woods, Tim Curry

Screenplay: Alison Fouse, Greg Grabianski, Dave Polsky, Michael Anthony Snowden, Craig Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Shawn Wayans

Rating: R; extremely crude humor, profanity, sexual situations, violence

Running time: 80 min.

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