Scary Movie 3
Directed by David Zucker
Written by Craig Mazin and Pat Proft
With Anna Faris, Drew Mikuska, Darrell Hammond, Anthony Anderson, Leslie Nielsen, Camryn Manheim, Simon Rex, George Carlin, Queen Latifah, Eddie Griffin, Denise Richards, Regina Hall, Pamela Anderson, Charlie Sheen


Scary Movie 3

The old joke goes like this: A legendary actor is on his deathbed, and his friend asks him if this passage to the end is hard for him. "No," says the actor. "Dying is easy. Comedy is hard." Well, it is. It's the hardest thing to get right in the movies. It takes perfect timing and delivery by the actors, perfect camera placement by the director, perfect writing of the gag by the screenwriter, and perfect editing afterwards. It's why we sit through so many films, ready to laugh, and never quite get to do it, and wonder afterwards why we didn't. It's why many are called - or call on themselves - to make comedies, but so few are chosen by the gods of wit.

Among that happy few are director David Zucker and writer Pat Proft, who between them are responsible for such delicious parodies as "Airplane!" "Top Secret," "Naked Gun," and "Hot Shots." They and their partners raised parody to an art form, understanding that to be funny you cannot be self-conscious or self-aware. You cannot smirk at the material, you cannot, in fact, laugh at it at all. The laughs come because you shoot it absolutely straight. In "Scary Movie 3" Zucker and Proft make hash of M. Night Shyamalan's films "The Sixth Sense" and "Signs," simply by reshooting them with a little twist. So we see the farm house and the corn field, only this time the crop circle is cut so that it says 'Attack Here' with an arrow pointing to the house; there are aliens, and there's Charlie Sheen (in the Mel Gibson role), who as an actor has a rare genius for doing physical comedy and slapstick with a straight face, and the unselfconscious body control that makes each pratfall a thing of beauty. We accept that he believes in what's happening to him; if we didn't, the comedy would die, and the film along with it.

There's more: There's the little boy who sees things, in this case young Cody (Drew Mikuska). He not only sees things, he insists on pointing them out as well, so when a couple passes by, he tells everyone that the young man isn't aware that his beautiful date is actually a man. But Cody pays a heavy price for his omniscience; he is repeatedly battered and beaten (by accident) throughout the film, but bravely gets back up every time but the last. He also has the misfortune to be babysat by family friend Father Muldoon (Darrell Hammond), who reports by phone that he and Cody are having a great time in the bath. Remember that in parody nothing is sacred.

And then there are Jenny McCarthy and Pamela Anderson as Catholic schoolgirls in fear for their lives because of a "Ring"-like video that kills anyone who sees it in seven days (McCarthy, trying to describe it, goes into detail about the notorious home video that Anderson made with her then-husband). There's old Zucker favorite Leslie Nielsen as the President, in another embarrassing moment, this time with a ceremony for a group of disabled people whom he mistakes for aliens; there's Queen Latifah as a "Matrix" oracle; and an extended riff on Eminem and "8 Mile."

The film is short enough (80 minutes) that when it runs out of steam, and it does, it's reasonably close to the end. Nevertheless, how many movies will you see this year that make you laugh out loud again and again and again? "Scary Movie 3" gives us Zucker and Proft at the top of their form, and that's as good as it gets.