It’s a scream

Scary Movie 3
Playing at area theaters
Three reels out of four

If Scary Movie 3 reminds you of Airplane and the Naked Gun movies, there’s a good reason. David Zucker, a member of the wacky team responsible for those flicks, directed it.

The original Scary Movie and its sequel did have their moments, but I must admit the addition of Zucker is inspired. Gone are the excesses and potty humor of the Wayans brothers; in their place is a madcap humor not unlike the Loony Tunes cartoons that Warner Bros. put out in the 1940s and ’50s.

Now out of college, the hapless Cindy Campbell (Anna Faris) is a TV news anchorwoman. Within a matter of days, Cindy is summoned to investigate the mysterious crop circles on Tom Logan’s (Charlie Sheen) farm, and discovers the eerie secret behind the death of a close friend.

While on her journey, Cindy pays a visit to Orpheus (Eddie Griffin), who explains to her that she is "The One," and prophesizes that she must help the President of the United States in preventing a full-scale alien invasion.

Before I go on, I must say a word about Faris, who has been the star of all three installments in the Scary Movie franchise. She is so good at playing an airhead that you begin to believe she is one. Nothing could be further from the truth. Part of the reason the series has not worn out its welcome has been this actress. She is a very talented light comedienne and maintains the right tone while playing the ditzy Cindy, who seems to attract mayhem wherever she goes. (For anyone doubting Ms. Faris’ talent, I suggest you see her small but hilarious role as the karaoke-challenged movie star in Lost in Translation.)

Of course, the acting is beside the point in these types of movies. With the patented Zucker approach, you pretty much sit back and enjoy the ride. There are so many jokes thrown at you, it’s like going to a buffet. You’re not going to like everything, but you remember what you do like.

What made Airplane and the Naked Gun movies work so well was not just the frequency of the jokes, but how well everything came together. When doing a spoof, you must know your material, and the writers must have spent every waking hour watching every horror movie out this year. Part of the fun is waiting to see what’s going to be skewered next and the recognition that comes when the joke clicks. Matrix Reloaded, The Ring and Signs are just a few of the movies targeted.

Comedy is a subjective thing. Not everybody is going to laugh at the same thing. But what’s not subjective is effort. People can usually tell if you’re cruising or putting your best foot forward. Part of what makes Scary Movie 3 so engaging is that you can tell the filmmakers are doing their best to make you laugh.

It doesn’t hurt that, most of the time, they succeed.

Recommended rental

Finding Nemo
Available Tuesday

Since I get only one movie to recommend for this category, once in a while I must make a choice. This time the choice was a no-brainer. Not only is Finding Nemo one of the best kids’ movies of the year, it’s also one of the best movies of the year, period. The people at Disney/Pixar have again come up with a delightful story that parents and kids can watch together. Albert Brooks is the voice of Marlin, an overprotective clownfish who must set out into a wide-open ocean when his son Nemo gets lost near the Great Barrier Reef. Like all Pixar efforts, part of the fun is hearing people like Ellen DeGeneres and Willem Dafoe lend their talents to the proceedings.