Sequel fails to meet `Scary' standards

Review: Wayans film is all too familiar.

July 04, 2001|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

Here's an amusing little conundrum: "Scary Movie 2" is filled with humor most people stop guffawing at around age 14, but its R rating means most of the adolescents it's aimed at won't be allowed into the theaters.

And that conundrum might be the most amusing thing about this sequel to last summer's surprise mega-hit, "Scary Movie," which at least contained enough inspired moments to forgive the multitude of lowbrow cinematic sins surrounding them. There were times when "Scary Movie" was seriously twisted, and achingly funny. But the sequel, the work of the same three Wayans brothers - stars Marlon and Shawn and director Keenen - hurts in a far more painful way.

The film's miscalculations are many, starting with its reliance on gags almost identical to those that fueled its predecessor. The material has a definite "haven't-we-been over-this-before?" feel.

There's also the problem of all the one-dimensional characters from the first film who return for this one, still playing the same note: innocent Cindy (Anna Faris), stoned Shorty (Marlon Wayans), sexually confused Ray (Shawn Wayans), sassy Brenda (Regina Hall). The first go-round, their formulaic personas were part of the fun; now, they're just tiring.

In a setup that's supposed to call to mind "The Haunting," they and a few newcomers (including Tori Spelling as a lush with a real thing for ghosts) are thrown together in a haunted house presided over by a leering professor (Tim Curry) and a disfigured caretaker (Chris Elliott, who quickly overstays his welcome). Much humor based on bodily functions ensues, and even those at the advance screening who at first were getting off on this stuff were disgusted by the time it was all over.

But let's give the film what little due it deserves: it opens with a great sequence, a send-up of "The Exorcist" featuring James Woods as the elder priest, Andy Richter as his young assistant, Veronica Cartwright as the distraught mom and Natasha Lyonne as the possessed little girl. Woods' reaction when he first realizes what he's up against is a comic gem, and the ensuing vomit battle is both gross and hilarious. (Remember that single stream of pea soup from the original "Exorcist"? Multiply it by about 10.)

And the occasional funny bit is sprinkled throughout the film, little diamonds among the voluminous rough: a joke about the Florida recount, a "Charlie's Angels" spoof (although it goes on a few minutes too long), a nod to John Woo (complete with fluttering pigeons) and a trash-talking parrot.

Come to think of it, trim this movie down to 20 minutes, and the Wayans would have had a classic!

Unfortunately, they didn't. Mostly, the Wayans just seem tired and rushed, too busy trying to cash in on "Scary Movie" and its unexpected success to worry much about coming up with fresh material. There's a reason Nelly's "Ride Wit Me," with its refrain "Hey, must be the money," plays over the closing credits.

`Scary Movie 2'

Starring Shawn Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Anna Faris

Directed by Keenen Ivory Wayans

Released by Dimension Films

Rated R (you name it)

Running time 82 minutes

Sun score *

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