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Dustin Putman

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Scary Movie 3 (2003)
2 Stars

Directed by David Zucker
Cast: Anna Faris, Simon Rex, Charlie Sheen, Regina Hall, Leslie Nielsen, Drew Mikuska, Anthony Anderson, Jeremy Piven, Pamela Anderson, Jenny McCarthy, Tim Stack, Camryn Manheim, Fat Joe, Ja Rule, D.L. Hughley, Queen Latifah, George Carlin, Denise Richards, Jianna Ballard, Darrell Hammond, Ajay Naidu, Patricia Idlette, William B. Taylor, Edward Moss, Simon Cowell, Marny Eng, Lori Stewart, Elaine Klimaszewski, Diane Klimaszewski, Master P, Macy Gray, Redman, Method Man, Raekwon, The RZA, U-God.
2003 – 85 minutes
Rated: Rated PG-13 (for crude/sexual humor, language, violence, and drug references).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, October 25, 2003.

"Have you ever had that sinking feeling in your stomach that something bad was about to happen, sort of like when you see an Asian behind the wheel of a car?"
— Brenda Meeks (Regina Hall) in "Scary Movie 3"

After the funny but threadbare "Scary Movie 2," who actually thought there was still enough juice and inspiration left in the successful horror movie-spoofing series for a third installment? If you are familiar with director David Zucker's comedic oeuvre (the slapstick classics "Airplane" and "The Naked Gun" trilogy), then you should have known not to count the series out just yet. Taking over for the Wayans' brothers, Zucker has reinvigorated the series with his own special brand of humor: physical comedy and sly dialogue over raunchy sex and drug jokes, which is what 2000's "Scary Movie" and 2001's "Scary Movie 2" relied so heavily on. And if "Scary Movie 3" does not reach the delirious, rib-tickling heights of the original, it does improve upon the first sequel by actually featuring a solidly developed narrative, rather than simply stringing a line of skits together.

If "Scary Movie" targeted the modern slasher genre, and "Scary Movie 2" focused on haunted house movies, then "Scary Movie 3" takes a stinging jab at the likes of alien and supernatural pics. Screenwriters Craig Mazin and Pat Proft do an admirable job of taking heavy elements from 2002's "The Ring" and 2002's "Signs" and piecing them into their own unique whole. Daffy, lovable series regular Cindy Campbell (Anna Faris) is now a Washington, D.C. newscaster who becomes intrigued when she reports on a crop circle that has mysteriously appeared in the cornfield of local farmer Tom Logan (Charlie Sheen). Cindy's investigation leads her to a videotape that when the person watches it, they receive a phone call informing them that they have seven days to live. Following the death of best friend Brenda Meeks (Regina Hall), who watched the videotape a week earlier, Cindy foolishly views it herself and the countdown to her own death begins.

Add in clever references to "The Others," "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," "The Lord of the Rings," and "The Matrix," and "Scary Movie 3" becomes a movie buff's comedy heaven. Casual filmgoers who haven't seen all of the aforementioned films will likely not understand many of the jokes, and thus need not apply. While an out-of-place "8 Mile" subplot is unnecessary early on (how, exactly, is the Eminem-starrer a horror flick?), the film as a whole beats the usual odds of spoofs by carrying its often hilarious puns, pratfalls, and one-liners all the way to the very end, never stalling in the process. As the dim President of the United States, who instructs his First Aide to inform the President of the impending alien invasion before being reminded that he is the President, Leslie Nielsen makes a welcome return to a genre he was seemingly made for. Nielsen gets maximum comic mileage out of his every appearance, including a very funny climactic ode to a line he made famous in "Airplane!"

The expansive cast is filled wall-to-wall with recognizable faces. Just as she was in the previous two entries, Anna Faris (2003's "May") is a delight as the put-upon Cindy Campbell. Faris knows how to sell comedy; whether it be physical, such as running into a microphone, or dialogue-driven, as when she tells her constantly battered psychic nephew (Drew Mikuska) that the reason she took him into her home was because she had just lost a cat and wanted something to pet and feed, Faris is dynamite. As the only other returnee to the series, the brilliantly hysterical Regina Hall (2003's "Malibu's Most Wanted") gets some of the biggest laughs as she reprises her role of the tell-it-like-it-is Brenda Meeks. Hall, rest her soul, is also the centerpiece of what is easily the most tasteless joke of any "Scary Movie." Without going into specifics, it is set at a funeral home and goes so far over-the-top into bad taste that one is unsure whether they should be laughing at all.

"Hot Shots!" alum Charlie Sheen also gets in on the fun as widowed farmer Tom Logan, who is still mourning from the death of his wife (Denise Richards) after she was hit by a car and torn in half. As Tom's brother, George, who has a dream of being a rap star and strikes up a romance with Cindy, Simon Rex (2001's "The Forsaken") also proves he has comic talent. Also making fun (if too brief) appearances are Pamela Anderson and Jenny McCarthy (2000's "Scream 3"), mocking their image as they play the two dumbest Catholic school girls on the planet in the opening parody of "The Ring;" Camryn Manheim (1998's "Happiness") as a sincere sherrif with a hat so big she can hardly fit it in her police car; Queen Latifah (2003's "Bringing Down the House") as The Oracle, who gets into a fighting match with the woman on the videotape; and Darrell Hammond (2003's "Agent Cody Banks") as the pedophilic Father Muldoon, who babysits Cindy's nephew and has already begun lighting the romantic candles before she has even left.

"Scary Movie 3" does not always hit the bullseye, but the jokes come at such a breakneck pace that even when one falls flat, you can be assured three more are right around the corner. Much of its failing is not due to the film itself, anyway, but because a lot of the material was shown in the trailers and television ads and has ceased being funny. Its other disappointing aspect is the PG-13 rating (the first two were hard R's); at times, it feels as if the filmmakers are holding back simply so they can get a more family-friendly rating.

What is appreciated, however, is that director David Zucker has ensured the movie feels like a satisfying whole, even one as silly and intentionally preposterous as this. Unlike "Scary Movie 2," it doesn't smell like such a rush job. If your idea of a good time is trying not to roll in the aisles with laughter and risk making a fool of yourself, then "Scary Movie 3" surprisingly fits the bill. It's tightly written, it's full of energy, and even when it dares to offend, it remains good-humored and just plain entertaining.
© 2003 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman