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Movie Review

‘Scary Movie 5’ engages in scare tactics

Simon Rex and Ashley Tisdale in “Scary Movie 5.”

Quantrell D. Colbert/The Weinstein Company

Simon Rex and Ashley Tisdale in “Scary Movie 5.”

Against all expectations, there’s some material that really grabs your attention in “Scary Movie 5.” Nope, not the comedy — the baffling question of how the devil the franchise’s spoofmeisters managed to send up “Evil Dead” just a week after it hit multiplexes. Too bad there isn’t some documentary detailing whatever zany behind-the-scenes logistics figured into it all. That might be a “Scary” movie that’s actually worth watching.

“Paranormal Activity,” naturally, and January’s Jessica Chastain chiller “Mama” are the big targets (never mind that original “Scary Movie” alum Marlon Wayans did his own weak “Paranormal” goof, “A Haunted House,” about five minutes ago). A stand-alone opener with Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan cameoing as themselves offers a ho-hum wink at their tabloid troubles and sets up screen-Charlie’s kids as orphans who’ve been looked after by a maternal ghost. Enter their guardians by default, Jody (Disney Channel princess Ashley Tisdale) and Dan (series vet Simon Rex, in a new role), who just can’t figure out why so many strange things are happening around their new makeshift-family home. Maybe that’s because they’re too preoccupied with squeezing in additional parodies of “Black Swan,” “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” “Inception,” and “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

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Not that there’s all manner of comedy craftsmanship demanding study here, but the movie does seem to be a funny jumble of contradictory impulses. You can practically hear some of them: We need oven-fresh gags!“How ’bout ‘Evil Dead’?” Perfect! “ ‘Black Swan’?” Perfect! (Huh?) Director Malcolm D. Lee (“Soul Men”) does generic work trading in bodily-function jokes too tired to elicit even a groan. But here and there, the classic, silly sensibility of writer David Zucker (director of the previous two entries) and his old “Naked Gun” partner Pat Proft shines through. “Just unraveling the old hose,” Sheen leers brightly, as we cut to . . . his gardener. Oh, to have more of that.

We’d have to guess that vanity, ultimately, is the secret behind the filmmakers’ intermittently surprising timing — that legit horror producers are happy to offer them early peeks at their work, because a “Scary Movie” shout-out means you’ve arrived. More like arrived way too late, by this point in the franchise.

Tom Russo can be reached at trusso2222@gmail.com.
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