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Friday, April 14, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Movie Review

Humor proves tougher and tougher to scare up

Seattle Times movie critic

This week's most alarming indication that civilization as we know it has ground to a screeching halt? James Earl Jones is in "Scary Movie 4."

For that matter, so are Dr. Phil, Shaquille O'Neal, Cloris Leachman and various other seemingly random people who drop in and out; it's like a roller-coaster ride through the various levels of celebrityhood. What it isn't much like is an actual movie, and while there's undeniably some funny stuff here, overall it's just a mess.

Much of the humor — the Viagra jokes, the Michael Jackson references, a cringe-worthy bathroom scene that makes you wonder just how hard up for work Carmen Electra really is — feels tired and unfunny, and David Zucker's directing sags where it should zing.

Movie review 1.5 stars


Showtimes and trailer

"Scary Movie 4," with Anna Faris, Craig Bierko, Regina Hall, Leslie Nielsen, Bill Pullman, Molly Shannon, Chris Elliott, Carmen Electra. Directed by David Zucker, from a screenplay by Craig Mazin, Patrick Proft and Jim Abrahams. 83 minutes. Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual humor throughout, some comic violence and language. Several theaters.

What saves "Scary Movie 4" from total misery are some very funny actors. Former Seattleite Anna Faris is all breathy, sweet obliviousness as Cindy Campbell, the dimwitted but ever-game heroine who's always getting bopped in the head with something. She's playing the Sarah Michelle Gellar character from "The Grudge," who in this universe lives next door to Tom Ryan, the Tom Cruise character in "The War of the Worlds."

As played by Craig Bierko, Ryan is a manly airhead with a very Tom Cruise way of posing in his working-class togs, as if at a photo shoot for a blue-collar GQ. The movie's funniest bit comes at the end, when Bierko sends up Cruise's notorious couch-jumping appearance on "Oprah." (Here, you truly do fear for the couch.)

So yes, I laughed a few times at "Scary Movie 4" (for the record, Dr. Phil and O'Neal turn out to make a rather effective comedy team), and the world did not come to an end, just yet.

But I also kept thinking about that staple horror-movie scene (think "Fatal Attraction") in which a Bad Person is supposedly drowned, and the good people look around in relief, and suddenly the Bad Person pops up out of the water again, ready for one last lunge with a knife. The "Scary Movie" franchise is kind of like that Bad Person — somebody needs to hold it under the water, and fast.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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