End of an era for the Zucker/Proft parody

By Gary Clift

It hasn’t been all that long since one could walk into almost any college classroom before the session began, get the students’ attention, say “Neidermeyer?” aloud, and expect half the people in the room to reply: “Dead.”

Such was the popularity of “Animal House.” Perhaps unfortunately, the word “Neidermeyer” doesn’t come up all that often in casual conversation. But one hears the National Anthem pretty often, particularly if one attends sporting events. Last weekend I saw “42,” a movie that included a playing of the Star Spangled Banner, supposedly right before a baseball game. As it played, I was almost overcome with a desire to chant “Enricco Pallazzo, Enricco Pallazzo.”

Others in the theater might have picked up the chant. Enricco Pallazzo is the name of the opera star who was supposed to sing the Anthem before the baseball game in “The Naked Gun,” one of a series of funny send-up movies written partly by Pat Proft and David Zucker.

Leslie Neilson’s policeman character pretended to be Pallazzo so that he could get on the field and stop a murderer from going after Queen Elizabeth, who was in the grandstand. His heroism so pleased the crowd that they began to chant what they thought was his name.

Well, there isn’t anything anywhere near that funny in “Scary Movie V,” the new send-up film Zucker and Proft have knocked together. After their run of amusing parodies: “Police Academy” and “Hot Shots,” “High School High” and the great “Airplane!,” the thrill seems to be well and truly gone.

“Scary Movie V” makes use of parodies of parts of the films “Mama,” “Paranormal Activities” (especially the most recent one in the series), “The Black Swan,” “Inception,” “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” and “Evil Dead” and refers to several other films, mostly horror movies.

Dan (Simon Rex) is a scientist studying the effects of intelligence-promoting drugs on chimpanzees. His wife Jody (Ashley Tisdale) is a ballerina. They come into possession of his brother’s children, who have been left alone in the woods for several years. The apes riot. The ballerinas back-stab. And the kids are visited by a dark spirit they call “Mama.”

So Dan and Jody call in a thief (Katt Williams) who is masquerading as a demon-hunting psychic. They invite in a dream specialist. And then there are appearances by minor film stars Darrell Hammond, Terry Crews, Molly Shannon, Snoop Dogg, Jerry O’Donnell, Jasmine Guy, Heather Locklear, Mike Tyson, and Lil Bow Wow.

Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan share an early scene together making fun of the bedroom scenes in the “Paranormal Activities” movies and of their own reputations. But none of this seems funny as the film is running.

I did get a laugh from the movie. Jody sees security camera footage of a night she spent under the influence of drugs slipped to her by a rival dancer. She apparently imagined she had been involved in a number of sex acts that she enacted by herself while unconscious. “That explains the poison ivy,” she says as she looks at the recordings. I was the only one in the theater who laughed.

In fact, during the showing I attended there wasn’t a lot of laughing except of the forced kind. And that’s sort of sad. It felt as if we were at the end of something that had been amusing.

But at least we needn’t hold out any hope for a later “Scary Movie.” Even if Zucker and Proft get one made, audiences won’t have any expectations for the film to then disappoint.

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