Think South Park set in high school. Think Freddy Krueger plopped unawares into American Pie. Think There's Something About Mary with 10 times the bodily fluids, and you might come up with something like Scary Movie, the Wayans brothers' sendup of post-Scream teen cinema. The breast implant is the first indication: five minutes in, an unfrocked Carmen Electra takes a knife to the chest with both deadly and, uh, deflating results. That sound, ladies and gentlemen, is a cinematic battle cry: The Wayans brothers have their eye on a place in the pantheon of all-in-the-family shock auteurs like the Farrelly brothers (Me, Myself & Irene) and the Weitz brothers (American Pie In keeping with earlier Wayans parodies, the tale of a half-dozen nubile teens terrorized by a knife-wielding killer riffs on Scream, The Matrix, The Sixth Sense, The Blair Witch Project and I Know What You Did Last Summer, with nods to Big Momma's House and the "Wassup!" Budweiser commercial just for kicks. The teens--played by actors obviously in their 20s and 30s--share a dark secret about an accidental hit-and-run (or rather hit-and-...well, that's part of the fun) one year earlier. The plot is mostly an excuse to offer a series of outrageously funny takes on generally unmentionable subjects. This is a movie where straight girls get drunk and go down on each other, retarded people have intimate relations with vacuum cleaners, and the barely closeted quarterback of the football team asks his teammates casually: "So, do you want to get naked and wrestle?" Add to this a roster of gleeful, anti-p.c. offenses--the disabled, the overweight and the elderly take their lumps along with females. (Could it be that post-feminism means never having to say, "I don't hit girls"?) Mix in some equal-opportunity gross-outs, including the most voluminous money shot you'll ever see on film. In the wrong hands, this would be vile; here, it's somehow both sick and cruel and good-hearted all at once--and the guilt that accompanies the laughter is part of the fun. It's also leagues better than previous Wayans brothers fare, whether Keenen's 1988 I'm Gonna Git You Sucka or Shawn and Marlon's 1996 clunker Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood. It seems the past few years have yielded a bumper crop of ready targets for the self-styled satirists, because there are more good jokes in the opening minutes of Scary Movie than there were in all 88 minutes of Don't Be a Menace. Part of the credit must go to the ensemble cast, who are given free rein to take their characters to deadpan extremes. Anna Faris, as perpetual innocent Cindy Campbell, is especially effective, whether she's playing hide-and-seek with the killer, fending off her boyfriend's advances or carrying on a phone conversation while casually shaving her armpits, her cheeks and her tongue. But each of her co-stars also tackles an assigned stereotype with gusto, and from spoiled beauty queen to eternally horny teenager (now there's a stretch), all are spot on. The Wayans' collective comic range has expanded exponentially (excepting, perhaps, Marlon's onscreen persona--once again, he's an addled, mush-mouthed pothead). The cash-cow shock jokes mentioned earlier are bolstered by delightfully screwball inventions (hint: look closely at the men's room) and observational humor. Don't Be a Menace landed one joke at a time, sometimes with a thud; here, there's enough material and confidence that the comic fusillade seems effortless. Probably one out of every four jokes gets lost on first viewing (hint: check out the names of the buildings and streets), but the uninterrupted barrage of antic energy carries extended sequences to quite a payoff.
The original Scream was itself a tongue-in-cheek take on horror movies for a generation that prides itself on having mastered irony young. This invites a couple of questions: What do you get when you spoof a spoof? If shock humor is funny, is a parody of shock humor funnier? If semen is funny by the tablespoonful, is it funnier when it's measured by the gallon? Is a parody of irony still irony? Wait around for the final post-credit joke before you decide.