A Haunted House 2 is unlikely to put anyone to sleep. That’s enough to mark it as an improvement over its predecessor, a Scary Movie take-off so poky and dull that it played more like a bad festival-circuit art film than a bad lowbrow comedy. However rubbery and manic, though, A Haunted House 2 still can’t overcome star attraction Marlon Wayans’ severely limited comic skill set. A typical scene consists of a brief setup peppered with broad race jokes and references, followed by a change of circumstances and 60 to 90 seconds of improvised reactions from Wayans, shot from the same static angle and strung together by jump cuts. Though even the most accomplished improvisers occasionally rely on shtick, Wayans simply recycles the same gags; his “improv” is all shtick, with little riffing and no sense of flow.
Over the course of the movie, Wayans repeatedly does the following: breaks down into hysterical sobbing; says the word “doo-doo”; inserts awkward disses at his and his co-stars’ competitors; pulls down his pants (viewers will become very familiar with the sight of Wayans’ ass cheeks resting snugly on the waistband of his Calvin Klein boxer briefs); and mimes sex with inanimate objects, which usually involves pretending to either give or receive a rimjob. The result is almost never funny, and, after the third or fourth time, begins to seem sputtering, compulsive, and sad.
The setups are similarly programmatic, repeated until running gags become jogging-in-place gags. Wayans’ character, Malcolm, carries on an affair with a possessed 2-foot doll, leading to interminable scenes of raunchy man-on-toy sex. Every scene involving Malcolm’s neighbor, Miguel (Gabriel Iglesias), is built around the same “stereotypes are real” joke, with Miguel pretending to get offended when Malcolm presumes that he works in landscaping or knows someone who runs an auto body shop before acknowledging that, yes, it’s true. Malcolm’s girlfriend, Megan (Jaime Pressly), takes every comment he makes personally, becoming angry at what she thinks are insinuations that she’s fat or a bad mother. One imagines that the script—credited to Wayans and his regular co-writer, Rick Alvarez—resembled a diagram.
The movie’s repeat-as-necessary comedy is enlivened by occasional bouts of cartoon weirdness. An early scene, in which Malcolm and Megan move into their new house, ends with a rope snapping, which causes a hitherto unseen Looney Tunes safe to fall and crush their dog. Malcolm lifts the safe, discovers that the dog has been flattened into a pancake, attempts to revive it using a bicycle pump, but over-inflates it, sending the dog’s balloon-like corpse flying across the street. Cut to a funeral scene, in which the grief-stricken Malcolm attempts to bury himself alongside the dog’s tiny coffin.
Like the moment in which Malcolm and Miguel wreck a kitchen while trying to behead a live rooster or the shot where Malcolm sees a CGI penis crawling up Megan’s daughter’s throat, the scene is more gonzo than funny, but comes as a welcome break from the repetition. One minor detail becomes emblematic of the humor’s cyclical crappiness: A magazine remains in the exact same spot on Malcolm’s coffee table, angled diagonally, throughout the whole movie, which takes place over the course of two weeks. It’s difficult to tell whether the set dresser responsible should have been fired or commended for consistency with the movie’s overall vibe.