“No mercy. No shame. No sequel.” If only those two groups of brothers–Wayans and Weinstein–had heeded the last part of that tagline for the original Scary Movie. But since that tiresome wallow in bodily fluids was the shock blockbuster of last summer, here now is, indeed, the sequel–even though the first film more than drained the well of teen slasher movies to lampoon.
So what’s left for “Scary Movie 2” make fun of? That the first film’s primary target/model was “Scream” and that this one’s is Jan DeBont’s justly maligned remake of The Haunting says everything about “Scary Movie 2″‘s creative bankruptcy. The story–which simply has the characters from the first film stay in a haunted house–is supposed to get its (for lack of a better term) “inspiration” from thrillers of a supernatural bent such as The Haunting, What Lies Beneath, “Poltergeist,” and The Exorcist. But in this film more than the last, director Keenen Ivory Wayans and the writing crew headed by stars Shawn and Marlon Wayans depend on tangents based on non-genre films and other pop culture items of the moment. That wouldn’t be a problem if the bits actually paid off, but all the gags in the film either start well then sputter at the end (e.g. the opening Exorcist-inspired sequence, which for all its eventual shortcomings is still the most effective in the film; an overlong takeoff on a Nike commercial) or are dead on arrival (a forced “Weakest Link” reference).
But “Scary Movie 2” fails less because of its lack of laughs than its lack of shocks. Scary Movie was by no means a good film nor a particularly hilarious one (though, admittedly, it had its moments); the only reason I can come up with for its wild popularity was the startling and unexpected extremes of its vulgarity. For this sequel, audiences are fully expecting the gratuitous semen jokes and cartoonish raunch, thus whatever novelty the crassness had the first time around is severely diminished.
Not diminished, however, is the appeal of returning lead Anna Faris. Her Cindy Campbell is now a stand-in for Lili Taylor’s rather dour role in The Haunting, and as such Faris has considerably fewer chances to flash her natural comedic instincts; nonetheless, she makes the most of what little is given her. Someone cast her in a real movie, please–not a slapdash, rushed hack job like “Scary Movie 2.”