The Scary Movie franchise, like the Seltzer-Friedberg empire of garbage it spawned, traffics in timeliness. But in this ADD-addled Internet age, it’s impossible for a studio comedy, even one as hastily and shoddily assembled as Scary Movie 5, to be truly timely. The Charlie Sheen/Lindsay Lohan joint cameo that made headlines a while back can’t help but look like rehashed tabloid junk mere months later. And those Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and Big Ang jokes that already seem dated now will likely seem incomprehensible to audiences decades on.
Willed into existence by the sinister, intertwined forces of commerce and cynicism, Scary Movie 5 casts Ashley Tisdale and Simon Rex as a couple who inherit a trio of spooky children from Rex’s brother, played by Charlie Sheen, who is opportunistically cast as himself, not as the fictional character he played in Scary Movies 3 and 4. (Though in those films, Rex played his brother; Rex also plays a different character in Scary Movie 5 than in 3 and 4—but not himself, because, c’mon, that’d be confusing!) Scary Movie 5 has so little commitment to continuity, from sequel to sequel and scene to scene, that it borders on avant-garde. The filmmakers have to include wall-to-wall narration from a Morgan Freeman sound-alike just to make the film even vaguely resemble a coherent narrative with a beginning, middle, and end, rather than 85 or so minutes of random nonsense from filmmakers so clearly dispirited by their mercenary assignment that they seem to be running out the clock from the very first frame.
Scary Movie 5 aspires to timeliness, but its comic sensibility is so groaningly retro that the film features a series of tributes to The Benny Hill Show and its signature ditty, “Yakety Sax.” Thanks to grizzled old hacks David Zucker and Pat Proft (whose days in the comedy trenches date back to his work on The Star Wars Holiday Special), the film’s fundamental comic spirit is baggy-pants vaudevillian. Co-screenwriters Zucker and Proft recycle the same pratfalls and genial silliness they perfected with Police Squad! and Naked Gun, but those limp gags have been so ubiquitous over the years that Scary Movie 5 can’t help but feel like a Xerox of earlier triumphs, reproduced so often that it’s smudgy to the point of incomprehensibility. For Zucker, this is pure hackwork, limply and dispassionately executed, but since the pathetic right-wing Michael Moore parody An American Carol ensued the last time Zucker was engaged with his subject material, perhaps his apathy isn’t altogether unwelcome.