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Movie review: 'Scary Movie 3'

Chicago Tribune Staff Writer

2 stars(out of 4)

Starlets Pamela Anderson and Jenny McCarthy jump-start the latest edition of the "Scary Movie" series, playing two Catholic schoolgirls who stumble upon a mysterious, deadly videotape, as in the 2002 horror flick "The Ring."

In no time, Anderson, sporting cleavage so artificially inflated it looks painful, bounces around in a push-up bra to accentuate her cartoonish curves - the first indication that "Scary Movie 3" is trying way too hard.

Plot doesn't matter much here, as "Scary Movie 3" exists solely to reference and lampoon other movies, in this case "The Ring," "Signs " and "8 Mile." In this installment, star Anna Faris attempts to link crop circles and a supernatural videotape, while harboring a crush on a wannabe rapper (Simon Rex). Charlie Sheen plays the afflicted farmer, while Queen Latifah and comedian Eddie Griffith pop in to provide "Matrix" jokes. Judging from the difference between the movie's trailer and what actually made it to the screen, some of its best material might be on a cutting-room floor somewhere.

Director/producer David Zucker ("Airplane!") takes the reins from the Wayans brothers, who created "Scary Movie" and its lackluster sequel. But at least there's good news: "Scary Movie 3" completely outshines "Scary Movie 2" - which, unfortunately, is like comparing a nightlight to a 30-watt bulb.

Milwaukee native Zucker, who produced brilliant work with younger brother Jerry Zucker and producer Jim Abrahams ("Top Secret!" and "Naked Gun"), delivers some inspired jokes but can't conjure up the unhinged zaniness that defined the first "Scary Movie" and his early career.

Part of the problem might be a stylistic clash. Zucker and his cohorts virtually invented the movie-parody genre with films such as "Top Secret!" and "Naked Gun." The difference is that they rarely referenced other movies directly, instead concocting a comic alchemy built on surprise and innovation. Minus the "Saturday Night Fever" sequence in "Airplane!," Zucker humor wasn't implicitly reliant on pop -culture references - which is why those films still pack a punch.

A talented comic director, Zucker still gives us enough to chew on, enough to keep us interested and hungry, but the laughs are so far apart and offer so few comic calories that it might be time to stick a fork in the franchise.

"Scary Movie 3"
Directed by David Zucker; written by Zucker, Brian Lynch, Craig Mazin, Pat Proft, Kevin Smith; photographed by Mark Irwin; production design by William Elliott; edited by Malcolm Campbell; music by James L. Venable; produced by Zucker, Robert K. Weiss. A Dimension Films release; opens Friday, Oct. 24. Running time: 1:30. MPAA rating: PG-13 (pervasive crude and sexual humor, language, comic violence and drug references).
Cindy Campbell - Anna Faris
Tom Logan - Charlie Sheen
Brenda Meeks - Regina Hall
U.S. President - Leslie Nielsen
Orpheus - Eddie Griffin
The Oracle - Queen Latifah

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