Scary Movie 2
Screenplay : Shawn Wayans & Marlon Wayans & Greg Grabianski & Dave Polsky & Michael Anthony Snowden & Craig Wayans
MPAA Rating : R
Year of Release : 2001
Stars : Anna Faris (Cindy Campbell), Shawn Wayans (Ray Jones), Marlon Wayans (Shorty Meeks), Tori Spelling (Alex), Tim Curry (Professor), David Cross (Dwight), Kathleen Robertson (Jamie Lee Curtisto), Regina Hall (Brenda Meeks), James Woods (Priest), Andy Richter (Father Kerris), Chris Elliott (Hanson), Natasha Lyonne (Jasonia Voorhees)
It seems like only a year ago that I was writing a review of the Wayans Brothers' horror spoof Scary Movie. Oh, wait, it was a year ago.
Yes, at the behest of Miramax co-chief Harvey Weinstein, Keenan Ivory Wayans (director) and his brothers Shawn and Marlon Wayans (co-writers and stars) have cooked up a second spoof, even though part of the original Scary Movie's tagline was that there would be no sequel. Of course, when that movie was released last summer, no one could have guessed that it would be a unexpected smash, easily breaking the $100-million mark and making Keenan Ivory Wayans the most successful African-American filmmaker in history. All that from a spoof of the semi-spoof Scream movies.
The second time around, many familiar faces return, including Anna Faris as the innocent heroine Cindy Campbell, Shawn Wayans as the barely repressible bisexual jock Ray Jones, and Marlon Wayans as the brain-fried dopehead Shorty Meeks. There are also some new, but recognizable faces, including Tim Curry as a lecherous college professor, Chris Elliott as a grotesque caretaker with a withered hand, and, last but not least, Tori Spelling as a randy college student who gets raped by a poltergeist and likes it so much she starts stalking the ghost for marriage.
While the first Scary Movie set its sights primarily on the postmodern slasher cycle of the 1990s, the sequel hits a broader range of targets. As its primary narrative framework, the movie uses the general plot of 1998's The Haunting, about a group of people with sleeping disorders assembled at a haunted house for experimental testing. But, the targets of spoof and parody range from somewhat older movies like Poltergeist (1982), to recent movies like What Lies Beneath (1999), to even more recent movies like Charlie's Angels (2000), Hollow Man (2000), and Save the Last Dance (2001) (they even manage to work in a reference to the Outback Survivor).
The choice of parody is telling in who this movie is aimed at: teens who haven't seen any movies made before the Reagan decade and don't care to. The possibilities of spoofing classic horror was demonstrated in Mel Brooks' brilliant Young Frankenstein (1974), but the Wayans obviously have no interest in delving back too far into cinema history; their audience wouldn't stand for it.
In its opening sequence, the movie does reach back a little bit farther in cinema history with an inspired parody of The Exorcist (1973). James Woods (filling in a role originally intended for Marlon Brando) steps into Max Von Sydow's shoes as the exorcist, although this time he has some intestinal problems that the Wayans use to parody Rod Steiger's worst scene from The Amityville Horror(1979). As before, Scary Movie 2 is meant to outgross everything that has come before it, so all the bodily fluid moments in The Exorcist (think Reagan peeing on the living room floor and the pea-soup vomit scene) are included, except the bodily fluids are increased in sheer volume and the force with which they are projected.
Like most spoofs, the jokes in Scary Movie 2 are primarily hit-and-miss, although too many of them miss. When the jokes hit, Scary Movie 2 can be hilarious, but when they fizzle (which is too often), it's almost embarrassing. The speed with which the movie was produced is largely evident, as it has an even more thrown-together feel than the original. When the creative juices start running dry, the Wayans set their comic sights on sacred cows, in this case, the disabled. One of the main characters, Dwight (David Cross), is wheelchair-bound, and the Wayans come up with more wheelchair and handicapped jokes than you thought were possible. This does lead to one of the movie's funnier moments, though, which occurs between Dwight and Hanson, the strange character played by Chris Elliott, in which they trade verbal barbs about the other's handicap.
Scary Movie 2 is fast-paced, sloppy, and pretty dumb, but it's over quickly. The Wayans have nerve and creativity, but they're becoming too hampered in the spoof cycle, in which all their energy has to be directed at making fun of what others have done before them. They're good at it, but it's ultimately a creative dead end from which they need to escape.
©2001 James Kendrick