Review by: Keith Simanton

Starring: Anna Faris, Charlie Sheen, Regina Hall

Scary Movie 3 is obnoxiously funny, a big live-action Mad Magazine send-up of several films, principally 8 Mile, Signs, and The Ring. It's a testament to the terrifying effectiveness of the last film that SM3 borrows most heavily from it, and spends the largest amount of time lampooning it (the Scary guys almost owe it a royalty check).

The plot is an amalgam of those three movies, wherein the character from the first two films, Cindy Campbell (Anna Farris), has become a T.V. reporter and is investigating the mysterious urban legend of a tape that, once you watch it, causes death seven days later. She also falls in love with a young farmer/rapper, George (Simon Rex), who is having troubles back at the homestead. Aliens have trampled an "attack here" message into his brother's corn crop, but George can't be bothered with the strange signs because he has to win a rap competition. That's basically how they've tied it all together.

Farris is, once again, a natural at ditzy comedy. She hasn't really been asked to do anything else yet (she plays a ditzy actress in Lost in Translation) but it's high time someone gave her a smart romantic comedy. Simon Rex comes across as a real find, able to convey a certain stalwart vacuous persona, not that there's a short supply of that in young, male actors: Ashton Kutcher, Sean William Scott, etc….

There are cameos aplenty, though few of them have the effectiveness of those in Goldmember. Queen Latifah shows up as Aunt Shaneequa, a prophetess, a la The Matrix films. Eddie Griffin is also in this sequence as Orpheus, though, strangely, the very funny "Laquisha, I'm prophesizing!" scene shown in the trailer is nowhere to be seen (note, her name has even changed). It's likely that market testing killed this segment.

Receiving the business end of most of the slapstick is Cindy's ward, Cody, (played by Drew Mikuska). Cody's counterpart is Aidan Keller, the creepy, wide-eyed boy from The Ring (played by David Dorfman). Director David Zucker (part of the team, including his brother Jerry Zucker and Jim Abrahams, responsible for Airplane! and The Naked Gun series) gets a great performance, largely in reactions, from Mikuska. Most importantly, there's actually a payoff to all of the abuse slathered on the kid in a scene near the end of the film. Zucker's back in playful mode; he has gratuitous continuity errors (you can't miss Pamela Lee Anderson's reappearing shirt), current jokes (Cindy visits a lighthouse website and gets inundated with pop-ups) and a screenplay that presents better than normal jokes and scenarios, such as a battle over a television teleprompter and a number of toss-off rejoinders -- Cindy (to George): "Something strange is happening on your farm!" George: "Hey, sometimes a sheep just needs to be pushed through the fence."

One scene, meant to go straight over the top of political incorrectness, is the only one that falls flat. It involves a reception for the less fortunate and handicapped in the Oval Office and the President of the United States, played by Leslie Nielsen (who is 77 and who should retire—it's getting painful watching him assay these goofy roles). The President assumes that aliens have taken over the honored guests and he and his secret service men (including Ja Rule) fight their way out of the room. Though supposed to be outrageous, it mostly drags the film down.

For the most part, though, Scary Movie 3 is a major step up from the feeble, stupid second installment, and largely on par with the goofy, irreverent first film. Using The Ring to fill it out, the way a dress uses a mannequin, it virtually ensures that Cindy Campbell, and David Zucker, will be back.