This isn’t so much going to be much of a review of the film itself, because I’m sure none of us really care. You’re unlikely to stumble on it, and thanks to the time-specific nature of the “comedy” the makers don’t exactly encourage you to watch the old ones. The immediacy that allows these films to exist (yes, stuff that just happened is hilarious!) also acts against re-viewing – although the horrific thought exists that this may be viewed as a “classic” in comparison to the demon spawn it birthed.
I thought Keenen Ivory Wayans was a genius. I adored “In Living Colour” and his two earlier films “Don’t Be A Menace To South Central…” and “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka!” were both favourites of mine; but by the time this came out he’d not done much for a while. I don’t consider “Scream” a parody of slasher movies as much as I see it as a meta-commentary on the rules of the game (because, as we know, it follows all the rules slavishly, and absolutely works in its own right as a slasher movie), so I never took this as a parody of a parody, or whatever. I wanted to like it.
And it’s sort-of okay! Anna Faris is an excellent straight woman to the insanity all round her, the main cast is all fine and it looks like a decent amount of money was spent on it. Okay, it’s not perfect (I got bored with the constant gay jokes, for one) but it’s interesting to see a film like this that allows for some plot to creep in around the barrage of jokes. The two main films parodied are “Scream” and “I Know What You Did Last Summer”, but there’s references to a lot of things that’d have been in the public consciousness at the time. Heck, I’d say give the first two a try, if you’re in the mood. There are worse comedies out there.
But, this is perhaps the best example (I can think of) of success spoiling people. Lots of people. After this film’s monstrous box office, Keenen Ivory Wayans was clearly given a blank cheque to make two movies, and the two he came up with are “White Chicks” and “Littleman”, two of the worst films it’s ever been my misfortune to see. His career sank like a stone after that, although there was a brief blip in 2009 when his cousin Damien Dante Wayans directed “Dance Flick”, an attempt by them to ape their former writers Friedberg and Setzer that disappeared almost completely without trace (have you ever heard of it?)
Talking of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Setzer, their story has been told by many sites like this. “A pimple on the ass of Hollywood” is about the nicest thing I’ve seen written about them- after being two of the six credited writers on “Scary Movie”, they branched out on their own, although it took them a while to get going. “Date Movie”, “Epic Movie”, “Meet The Spartans”, “Disaster Movie”, “Vampires Suck” and “The Starving Games”, six of the worst and blamed by many for the decline of Western civilisation (although I watched “Vampires Suck” when I had a fever once, and I didn’t hate it). Taking that Twilight-themed masterpiece at random, it made $80 million, which doesn’t include home video and Netflix sales, from a $20 million budget. From their spots at the bottom of the writer’s list for an above-average-ish parody movie, they’ve made a decade-plus career happen, and it’s not stopped yet.
In the last couple of years, we’ve had “Best Night Ever”, which looks like a cross between “The Hangover” and “Bridesmaids” and rather bizarrely had some positive reviews, as it appears to be something a bit like a proper movie. Coming up are “Superfast”, taking on the Fast & Furious franchise, and “Who The F*** Took My Daughter?”, which is just listed as “announced” thus far, and I’m going to take a wild stab on being somewhat similar to “Taken”. I miss their old naming format, as we’d have had “Bachelorette Movie”, “Car-Based Theft Movie” and “Child Abduction Movie”.
Ultimately, you can compare them to the great parodists of the previous generation, Mel Brooks and the Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker team. It’s safe to say that those guys loved and understood the things they were parodying, because there’s so much detail and background stuff (“Airplane”, famously, lifts entire scenes wholesale from “Zero Hour”, and the change of emphasis makes them hilarious). They are, of course, vastly superior to Friedberg and Setezer, but when audiences are allowing the two of them to make a comfortable profit on all their movies, someone is going to keep funding this comedy of recognition, where the actual joke is far secondary to just saying “hey, look at this thing you remember!”
There’s a strange thread running through criticism of them, though, which indicates they’re making the world worse. Korey Coleman of Spill.com, writing in 2010, said “I think it shows a slight de-evolution in what people will accept as entertainment”, and this is ludicrous. The idea that, were it not for Friedberg and Seltzer, the $80,000,000 that “Vampires Suck” made would be flowing straight into the coffers of the nearest arthouse cinema, is an absolute nonsense. Besides, as someone who’s sat through some truly dreadful semi-improv mumblecore movies, making rotten, lazy “entertainment” is not something that’s limited to the so-called bottom end of the intellectual spectrum.
They are an effect, not a cause. We cannot strip funding from our schools, actively try and stop people from thinking critically, and to reduce political discourse to two old white men shouting at each other, then to expect the kids that come up through that system to enjoy the same sort of things we did. If having an attention span is seen as an irrelevance, why should we expect people to display evidence of one? Blaming the people who make movies like this for the state of society is like blaming the fire when a lunatic burns down your house. You want to stop more Friedbergs and Seltzers? Then campaign for better schools, to stop the rich stealing from the rest of us, for separation of church and state and for less bigotry. Giving their films 0% on Rotten Tomatoes has done precisely nothing to affect their popularity, and has probably even helped in some instances.
Rating: thumbs in the middle