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Scary Movie 2

Spoofing the "Scream" movies was a great concept: "Scary Movie" became a magnet for hordes of fans. Unfortunately, producing the sequel has proven considerably more problematic.

Scary Movie 2

Spoofing the “Scream” movies was a great concept: “Scary Movie” became a magnet for hordes of fans. Unfortunately, producing the sequel has proven considerably more problematic. Lensing at breakneck speed to continue the big mo’ of last summer’s sleeper blockbuster, helmer Keenen Ivory Wayans was still in production up until mere weeks ago for now-famous scenes in which Marlon Brando was replaced by James Woods. Effort is technically and comedically strained by the demands of its special effects-filled haunted house setting. Worse, the need to top the first pic’s outlandish stunts is ghoulishly unfulfilled and terribly ironic: Unlike the first “Scream” sequel, this one hardly surpasses the original. Pic won’t shake off this summer’s haunting B.O. pattern of 50%-plus drop-offs after huge opening week numbers, though the final tally will probably encourage Dimension to launch — perhaps with a bit more patience this time — a third edition.

As with the first “Scary Movie,” this is the brainchild of Wayans brothers Keenen, Shawn and Marlon, and once again there is an army of co-writers and producers. What also remains constant is a gleeful ability to poke fun at any sacred cow (this time, the disabled) and a nearly supernatural way of spinning the latest pop culture references on their heads. Some are astoundingly new: Black hip-hop style is taught to a curious white girl a la “Save the Last Dance”; Wilson from “Castaway” appears in the logo art; Anne Robinson’s chilly “Weakest Link” dismissal is uttered by a foul-mouthed parrot; and Marlon’s head is opened up in a way that would make even Hannibal Lecter chuckle.

An eight-minute prologue, though, travels back two decades for its jokes, to “The Exorcist,” in which Woods brazenly skewers the title character, Andy Richter provides a dazed needling of Father Karras, Veronica Cartwright in the Ellen Burstyn role briefly leads a chorus of “Shake Ya Ass” and the barely recognizable Natasha Lyonne urinates, cusses, head-spins and pukes as Megan. Nothing else in the movie is as funny as this dead-on send-up, which hits its gross peak with a three-way war of projectile pea-soup vomiting.

Opening suggests that the sequel is going to go wilder and crazier than before, but it never happens. A year later, back from the dead with no explanation are he-doesn’t-know-he’s gay Ray (Shawn Wayans), blunt-smoking Shorty (Marlon Wayans) and Ray’s g.f. Brenda (Regina Hall). Goody-good Cindy (Anna Faris), who survived first pic, joins her pals and others for a “mick” psychology class led by a professor (Tim Curry) and sidekick Dwight (David Cross), a wheelchair-bound techie with a complex about anyone assisting him.

With shades of “The Haunting,” “House on Haunted Hill” and even “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken,” the professor invites his pupils to join him for a weekend in Hell House. Weirder than the professor and by far more irritating, is the estate’s ultra-deformed caretaker named Hanson (Chris Elliott), which is about as dated as the pop culture jokes get. Cindy arrives, first pestered by the parrot that fulfills pic’s R rating all by itself, then by Hanson, whose bent stubs of fingers go everywhere they shouldn’t. Soon after the group arrives, Hanson prepares dinner with his hands in an endless skit that has Elliott, one of his generation’s sorriest comics, nearly capsizing the movie all by himself.

Cindy gets clued in before anyone else to what’s spooking Hell House: The ghost of the dead owner, Mr. Kane (Richard Moll, in grayish translucence), is avenging his wife’s infidelities by stalking women, especially Cindy, who looks like Mrs. Kane.

All of this is rough prelude for a train of set pieces: Ray under a bed with a killer clown, Dwight in a wheelchair race with Kane’s ghost, Brenda getting over on a bad-ass skeleton, and Shorty getting rolled into a giant joint by a pot plant that seems to have escaped from “Little Shop of Horrors.” But through all this, as well as a “Charlie’s Angels” action spoof, the laugh quotient shrinks faster than the Nasdaq index in 2000. The surprise of discovery in the first movie is gone, and it’s not helped by the Wayanses’ habit of repeating gags.

Except for Elliott, the thesps work as a good-natured unit, with Cross carrying more screen time than anyone might expect. Still, the strong comic sense and energy of Woods and Co. in the prologue is badly missed once the poltergeists take over.

Sequel’s heftier budget purchased more effects, but they’re poor-cousin knockoffs of previous horror movies, and like the project as a whole, none surpass the extreme stunts of last year’s edition. Steven Bernstein’s lensing forgets to shift out of the over-lit style endemic to gross-out comedy for a sufficiently darker look later on. Music selections are surprisingly bland.

Scary Movie 2

  • Production: A Dimension Pictures release of a Wayans Bros. Entertainment production in association with Gold-Miller and Brad Grey Pictures. Produced by Eric L. Gold. Executive producers, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein, Brad Weston, Peter Schwerin. Co-executive producers, Shawn Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Lee R. Mayes, Tony Mark, Lisa Suzanne Blum, Rick Alvarez. Directed by Keenen Ivory Wayans. Screenplay, Shawn Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Alyson Fouse, Greg Grabiansky, Dave Polsky, Michael Anthony Snowden, Craig Wayans, based on characters created by Shawn Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Buddy Johnson, Phil Beauman, Jason Freidberg, Aaron Seltzer.
  • Crew: Camera (Deluxe color), Steven Bernstein; editors, Peter Teschner, Tom Nordberg, Richard Pearson; music supervisor, Randy Spendlove; production designer, Cynthia Charette; art director, Cat Smith; set designers, Cameron Birnie, Lee Cole, Gina Cranham, Gene Darnell, Colin de Roliin , Kelly Hannafin, Rich Romig; set decorator, Robert Kensinger; costume designers, Mary Jane Fort, Valari Adams ; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS/SDDS), David Kirschner; supervising sound editor, Michael J. Benavente; sound effects designer, John Joseph Thomas; visual effects, Digiscope; visual effects supervisors, Ariel Velasco Shaw, Raymond McIntyre Jr., Brad Kuehn, Doug Beswick, Dr. Ken Jones; special effects, FX Concepts; additional visual effects, Cantina Pictures, CIS Hollywood, Yannix Technologies, Perpetual Motion Pictures; special effects coordinator, Lou Carlucci; digital effects supervisor, Reid Paul; special makeup effects, Tony Gardner; associate producers, Sue Jett, Barry Rosenbush; assistant director, Carol Louise Green; second unit camera, Tony Mark, Eddie Watkins; casting, Juel Bestrop, Jeanne McCarthy, Christine Sheaks. Reviewed at the Avco Cinema, L.A., July 2, 2001. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 82 MIN.
  • With: Ray - Shawn Wayans Shorty - Marlon Wayans Cindy - Anna Faris Brenda - Regina Hall Buddy - Chris Masterson Theo - Kathleen Robertson Dwight - David Cross Father McFeely - James Woods The Professor - Tim Curry Alex - Tori Spelling Hanson - Chris Elliott <B>With:</B> Andy Richter, Richard Moll, Veronica Cartwright, Natasha Lyonne.