The outer limits of R-rated respectability are stretched, if not shredded, by Keenen Ivory Wayans’ gleefully gross and exuberantly smutty “Scary Movie,” a zany scattershot spoof of teen horror pics, high-school sex comedies and assorted pop-culture phenomena. Unbounded by taste, inhibition or political correctness, this potential summer sleeper boldly goes where no one, not even Peter and Bobby Farrelly, has gone before with mainstream megaplex fare. Many critics, social commentators and op-ed writers may express outrage, which should only make the pic even more attractive to the under-30 target aud. Combine that with crafty positioning by Dimension Pictures and undeniable crossover appeal, and you have the makings of a breakout smash.
The freewheeling script — reportedly distilled from two independently conceived and completed scenarios — is credited to six scribes, including co-stars Shawn and Marlon Wayans, brothers of the director. Despite the patchwork construction, there is something like a plot to connect the assorted sight gags, satirical bits, rude remarks and sketch-comedy episodes.
But the slender narrative (think “Scream” meets “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” with a side order of “American Pie”) is never allowed to get in the way of a cheap laugh or an inspired non sequitur.
“Scary Movie” remains sufficiently flexible and loosely knit to encompass, among other things, references to “The Usual Suspects,” “The Sixth Sense,” “Dawson’s Creek,” “Amistad” (don’t ask) and “The Matrix.” The humor is so aggressively up-to-the-moment, there’s even a joke about the Budweiser “Whassup?” ads and a fleeting mention of “Big Momma’s House.”
In short, this is the work of filmmakers who have studied “Airplane!” and the “Naked Gun” pics with all the attentiveness that used to be reserved for the likes of “Citizen Kane” and “The 400 Blows.” The good news is that Keenen Ivory Wayans and his collaborators learned their lessons enough to be consistent in their silliness. (It probably helped that the director already cut his teeth on the blaxploitation spoof “I’m Gonna Get You, Sucka!”) Unlike most spoofs of this helter-skelter sort, “Scary Movie” manages an impressively huge score in the hit-or-miss gag ratio.
The story, such as it is, revolves around a group of teens –played, in true teen-pic fashion, by actors in their 20s and 30s — who share a deep, dark secret about a pedestrian they accidentally killed during a late-night, drunk-driving joyride. (The victim wasn’t fatally injured, but he wound up dead anyway.) Now the young friends must cope with an apparently vengeful killer whose mask occasionally resembles that worn by the mad slasher of the “Scream” franchise. At other times, though, the mask … well, never mind. Let’s just say that, as running gags go, this one gets an impressive amount of mileage.
Director Wayans sets the tone during the opening minutes. Hell, he sets it during the first 30 seconds, when Carmen Electra, playing a character named — wink-wink, nudge-nudge — Drew, passes gas while on the phone with the mad killer. Shortly afterward, the slasher arrives to bury his knife in her bountiful bosom. When he removes the blade, however, he finds the point is embedded in a breast implant.
Much of the rest of the pic proceeds in the same anything-goes vein. There’s a high school football player (Shawn Wayans) who can barely remain in the closet, a hot-headed big man on campus (Lochlyn Munro) who’s not so huge where it really counts and a pushy TV reporter (Cheri Oteri) whose latest bestseller is titled “You’re Dead, I’m Rich.”
But wait, there’s more: a slutty airhead (Shannon Elizabeth), a jive-talking best friend (Regina Hall), a pot-smoking horror movie buff (Marlon Wayans), a horny boyfriend (Jon Abrahams) and a professional virgin (Anna Faris) who, when deflowered, sounds as ferocious as the possessed Linda Blair in “The Exorcist.”
At least two gags involving male genitalia — especially one that uses an erect penis as an offensive weapon — are shocking but explosively funny. Here and elsewhere, “Scary Movie” is practically guaranteed to make you laugh until you’re ashamed of yourself. Still, questions inevitably arise: Are erections R-rated only when they’re played for laughs?
The well-cast leads appear ready for anything — which, considering what they’re asked to do, is a very good thing — but their unbridled enthusiasm never devolves into self-conscious campiness. They’re funny largely because they seem to take everything so seriously.
Tech credits are everything they have to be, particularly when the pic manages to hit pay dirt with an homage to the overspoofed “The Blair Witch Project.”
And, yes, this is yet another pic that requires you to sit patiently through the closing credits for one last laugh.