My disdain of the 'Scary Movie' franchise came early. I distinctly recall seeing the 'Scary Movie 2' poster, which featured Kathleen Robertson wearing a t-shirt that says "I See Dead People." This isn't a joke. It's just a reference. It isn't clever, it isn't witty - it's just saying a thing from another movie. It's not funny.

Almost 10 years later, 'Scary Movie 5' still suffers from this debilitating problem. There is absolutely nothing funny about going 'Inception'-style into Christian Grey's S&M room and having Mike Tyson show up. Yet, if you are somehow able to ignore the lowest common denominator pop culture appearances (I hesitate to even call them jokes) there are a great number of truly amusing gags and examples of rapid fire dialogue zings. Put bluntly: when the film is freed from the shackles of its referencing mandate, there's some good, dopey humor in here. Much to my surprise, I laughed out loud a good half-dozen times.

The plot, such as it is, is a riff on 'Mama' (and 'Paranormal Activity,' though at this point these gags feel like parodies of the parody 'A Haunted House'). The parents have jobs in "different movies," as it were, so dad goes to 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' and mom goes to 'Black Swan.' This paves the way for some legit funny moments involving higher math used to peel a banana as well as the best sight gag montage dedicated to tribadism in cinema.

Though there are plenty of unfunny bits while people just dance quickly (what is that?) as well as punchlines devoted to fat women in bikinis, poop, farts, toothbrushes up the butt, popsicles up the butt and poop pie, there are a lot of whacked-out non sequiturs (sentient, sexual pool cleaning devices!) and a few verbal parries at full '80s screwball speed.

It's frustrating. For instance, there's an envelope-pushing and very funny moment with one of the little girls (the genuinely talented Ava Kolker) waterboarding one of her dolls. Just when you think "hey maybe this movie's all right" there's a pointless, out of context reference to Honey Boo Boo.

(One notable thing on this point. There is a sequence that makes explicit references to the remake of 'Evil Dead.' Ewww, the tongue. Anyway, considering that 'Evil Dead' is probably playing two doors down at all the same multiplexes as 'Scary Movie 5,' this may be the first time a movie is playing in both straight and parody form in the same theater.)

There are opportunities to have a good time with this film, if you are a forgiving sort. (Snoop Dogg, quite amusing, is in an early scene, if that is any indicator of the state of mind you may want to be in.) Maybe the filmmaking team will take a deep breath and try to stick with original jokes for the inevitable 'Scary Movie 6' and it won't be quite so uneven.


'Scary Movie 5' is in theaters now.

Jordan Hoffman is a writer, critic and lapsed filmmaker living in New York City. His work can also be seen on, Badass Digest and

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