Scary Movie 3. Dimension Films presents a film directed by David Zucker. Written by Pat Proft. Running time: 90 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for pervasive crude and sexual humor, language, comic violence and drug references). Starring Anna Faris, Charlie Sheen, Simon Rex, Regina Hall, Leslie Nielsen, D.L. Hughley.

Scary Movie 3

There is an air of desperation surrounding Scary Movie 3, the already the second "comedy" from ex-genius David Zucker in 2003. I thought that the first, My Boss's Daughter would be the last shudder from Zucker, the director of such slapstick classics as Airplane! and The Naked Gun, before he decided to call it quits, but I was wrong. Scary Movie 3 has jokes about pedophilic priests, mutilating a corpse, and even an "American Idol"/Simon Cowell joke. I was surprised at the lack of "Is that your final answer?" and "You are the weakest link" quips.

There are both positives and negatives to the saturation approach that has always been employed by Zucker. The good is that, with all the jokes on screen, the movie seems funny even if only forty or fifty percent of the jokes hit. The bad is that if very few of the "jokes" work, it just seems that much less funny. Scary Movie 3 suffers from this: hundreds of jokes are tossed in the air, but there are, at best, four or five genuine laughs in the entire production. Of course, even in a normal comedy this would be an unsurpassable problem, but here the sin is grievous.

The screenplay, again from someone responsible for Airplane! (Pat Proft), mainly parodies The Ring, Signs, and, oddly, 8 Mile. As would be expected from a parody of horror films, the 8 Mile segments are the worst, but that's sort of like comparing the time you got struck by lightning to the time you got hit by a car. Scary Movie 3's throwaway (to be kind) plot has the only returning Scary Movie character, Cindy Campbell (Anna Faris), investigating crop circles at a local farm run by a seemingly nameless minster-turned-farmer (Charlie Sheen) with a wannabe rapper brother (Simon Rex). Then Cindy watches a killer videotape and--

Why the hell am I even justifying that with a paragraph? There isn't anything to Scary Movie 3's plot except for a series of disjointedly connected skits, which I suppose wouldn't usually be a problem. But since hardly any time watching the movie is spent laughing, the lack of any cohesive narrative becomes distracting. And then, since we're focusing on the story - well, the lack of one - the fact that so few of the jokes work becomes even more painfully obvious. Scary Movie 3 really is just a train-wreck of immense proportions.

I am convinced that Anna Faris is a good actress (see May and Lost in Translation), but she doesn't do anything special here, just acts perky and air-headed. Charlie Sheen looks like he didn't actually want to do the movie but had to for the money. And Simon Rex is mind-numbingly terrible, delivering his lines with all the enthusiasm of a six-year-old in a kindergarten class play.

Scary Movie 3 is just an awful movie no matter how you spin it. Offensive without taking enough risks to be shockingly funny, it undermines the legacy of not only Zucker's previous works, but also that of the first two Scary Movies, neither of which was exactly hilarious. It is, quite simply, terrifying.

© 2003 Matt Noller