Save for the James Bond pictures and a number of other film series, the norm when it comes to sequels is that the higher the Roman numeral, the lower the name recognition of those in front of and behind the camera. Of course, when a lot of money is at stake, the controlling studios will occasionally break that rule in an attempt to maintain the flow of moola and/or stem the hemorrhaging from one installment to the next.
Case in point is the "Scary Movie" series. The first film, released in 2000, surprised everyone with an opening weekend gross of $42 million against a final total of $157million. Its 2001 sequel, however, only opened and finished with $20 and $71 million respectively.
Accordingly, the first two films' creative forces - the Wayans brothers and team - are out. In their place is David Zucker, the man who helped reinvigorate the spoof comedy with efforts such as "Airplane!" and the "Naked Gun" films.
His arrival on the scene, along with writers Craig Mazin ("Senseless," "Rocket Man") and Pat Proft ("Wrongfully Accused," "Police Academy"), would ordinarily be a welcomed addition/substitution, but one must remember that his last two films, "BASEketball" and "My Boss's Daughter," were not exactly what one would consider classic comedies.
I'm happy to report that this effort clearly isn't as bad as that last film and it does offer some hearty laughs in the vein of the earlier works. Yet, it certainly isn't anywhere in the same league as those efforts that made Zucker a comedy god in Hollywood.
Considering that the first two films pretty much tapped out most recognizable horror films, Zucker and company target efforts that were released after the last "Scary Movie" installment. Namely, that's "The Ring" and "Signs" with a little bit of "The Others" and "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" thrown in for good - or at least attempted good - measure.
Like most other spoof films, this one also ventures outside the genre to poke fun at "8 Mile," "The Matrix Reloaded," "The Lord of the Rings," Michael Jackson, the Coors Twins (from the TV commercial) and overly buxom, blonde bimbos.
It's the latter than opens the film - with elements of "The Ring" thrown in - that gets things going on a promising note with Pamela Anderson and Jenny McCarthy spoofing their own stereotypes. Following that, the offerings become a mixed bag with some bits being hilarious, funny or at least amusing and other moments - particularly in the second half - being noticeably less successful.
That's particularly true with the entire "8 Mile" spoof where Simon Rex ("The Forsaken," "Going Greek") plays an Eminem type rapper wannabe and Anthony Anderson ("Malibu's Most Wanted," "Cradle 2 the Grave") his promoter. Since this offering is now rated PG-13 (rather than R like its predecessors), Zucker and company aren't allowed the opportunity to have as much fun skewering the real life rapper's language and subject matter of his songs.
That leaves the spoofs of "The Ring" and "Signs" to shoulder the effort. While they provide some laughs, there simply isn't enough spoof-able material in them to fuel this film. As a result, various instances of crude humor, guys getting hit in the crotch and a young boy receiving the repeated if accidental abuse of others are brought in. Alas, most of those gags are flat and/or run into the ground long before the end credits roll.
Anna Faris ("The Hot Chick," "May") and Regina Hall ("Malibu's Most Wanted," "Paid in Full") are the sole returning cast members from the first two films with the former inhabiting the Naomi Watts character from "The Ring."
Spoof veterans Charlie Sheen (the "Hot Shots" films) and Leslie Nielsen (the "Airplane" films) play the Mel Gibson "Signs" part and the President of the U.S. respectively, Sheen gets some funny bits, but Nielsen is mostly underused. A host of other performers, ranging from Queen Latifah ("Chicago," "Brown Sugar") to Camryn Manheim ("The Tic Code," TV's "The Practice") and Eddie Griffin ("Undercover Brother," "The New Guy") to Ja Rule ("Half Past Dead," "The Fast and the Furious") appear in smaller roles and occasionally generate some laughs.
Overall, the film offers enough comedy -- especially early on -- that it's not a waste of time for those who enjoy such efforts. Nevertheless, it's nowhere as clever, imaginative or, most importantly, funny as the director's earlier works that set the standard for such films. "Scary Movie 3" rates as a 4 out of 10.