Since it began in 2000, the Scary Movie franchise has gone on to gross more than the Scream films it initially spoofed. It's also had a change of creative team and moved on to aim its lowbrow brand of parody at a wider range of films. This time round, it's War Of The Worlds and The Grudge that are the primary target, Scary Movie 4 managing to (loosely) hybridise the plots of both Spielberg's film and the US version of the J-horror yarn. The film also manages to riff on the Saw films, The Village, Million Dollar Baby and Brokeback Mountain, among others.
Scary Movie 4 is notable for how it re-teams director David Zucker with Jim Abrahams, who here gets a screenwriter credit alongside Craig Mazin, who worked on Scary Movie 3. David Zucker and Abrahams were two of the three people who gave us the seminal spoof movie Airplane! They also worked together on 'Police Squad', Top Secret! and Naked Gun before going their separate ways.
Their collaboration on Scary Movie 4 arguably raises the franchise out of the comedy sewer where it resides, but only by a few inches. Like its predecessors, Scary Movie 4 is dumb, lazy and scattershot - but at least some of the gags hit home. Some. A small percentage.
The chief successes of Scary Movie 4 come in its attacks on films such as Spielberg's 2005 science-fiction epic, with relentless lampooning of that film's lead character and the actor who played him, Tom Cruise. As well as highlighting the utter poppycock of the clean-cut, scarily Scientological Cruise playing a blue collar bad dad, it even goes so far as to do a pretty extensive skit on Cruise's notorious 'Oprah' appearance - though arguably that was so ludicrous it barely needs sending-up.
In a similar vein, the film also sends up the American President, with old hand Leslie Nielsen in the role, here obsessing over the story of a duck being read in a school classroom while the US is being decimated by alien attack. Again, the real Bush is better at playing a parody of an American President, with his myriad nonsensical and semi-literate utterances.
Anyways, Anna Faris is back as the stupid, luckless Cindy Campbell. Where originally she was a play on the Neve Campbell Scream heroine, now she's slotted into the Sarah Michelle Geller role in The Grudge. Cue gags about home help washing down their catatonic charges with urine and ghostly boys (speaking subtitled "Japanese" along the lines of "shitake kimono", "tempura, sushi, sashimi"). The haunted house where Cindy gets a job is alongside that of Tom Ryan (Bierko), a dock worker whose troubled relationship with his kids gets worked out during an alien invasion. If you found the Dakota Fanning daughter character annoying in Spielberg's film, you'll appreciate the battering her proxy (Campbell) gets here. But that's about the extent of the sophistication.