It’s been more than a decade since the “Scream” series ended on a rather unsatisfying note, with a disappointing third installment that couldn’t sustain the momentum of the first two films.
That blip in the franchise is rectified with “Scream 4,” a reboot of the popular slasher series that helps wash away some of the bad taste from the previous entry. Combining the three constant players from the original trilogy with a new cast of fresh faces, this is a fun little flick that will surely entertain fans of the genre.
Neve Campbell is back as Sidney Prescott, who is now a self-help author returning to her hometown of Woodsboro to promote her book on the anniversary of the infamous killing spree she survived a decade earlier.
Sidney’s homecoming quickly turns sour as the Ghostface killer returns, threatening a new generation of teens, including Sidney’s cousin Jill (Emma Roberts) and her friends.
With former allies Dewey (David Arquette), who is now the sheriff, and Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox), now retired from the news business and married to Dewey, at her side, Sidney sets out to stop the new killer before the killer can finish off his or her plan.
Director Wes Craven has always had a good eye for this genre when working with the right material. Fortunately, he has the help of Kevin Williamson, who brings that self-aware approach to the dialogue that made the first two films so successful.
The characters’ self-awareness is amped to a new high here, but it makes for some fun exchanges - the high point is an opening sequence that features a couple of welcome cameos.
It’s also fun to see Campbell, Arquette and Cox back in familiar territory, even if their performances are more of the same. Still, the dynamic of Arquette and Cox playing an unlikely couple provides the film with a quality in-joke in light of the couple’s recent real-life marital problems being played out in the tabloids.
The old guard serves the film well enough, but they pass the torch to a cast that adds life and energy. Roberts seems ready to take the torch from Campbell as the sympathetic victim, while Hayden Panettiere provides some good moments as Jill’s best friend and Alison Brie is a delight as Sidney’s publicist.
To be totally honest, though, the cast is really just a set of interchangeable chess pieces. The real fun of the “Scream” franchise is the payoff, and I must admit the twist here is pretty inspired.
The result is a franchise that actually picks up a little steam this late in the series. The box office tally this weekend might have been a disappointment - “Scream 4” earned just more than $19 million - but this film is anything but disappointing. It’s a clever reboot that should please the fan base while adding a few more fans in the process.
DVD dandy of the week
This week’s dandy is “The King’s Speech” (A), the delightful Academy Award winner that earned Colin Firth a Best Actor award as well.
Firth plays King George VI, the reluctant British leader who rises to power right before World War II after his brother (Guy Pearce) abdicates the throne.
George’s reluctance stems from a lifelong stammer that has caused him to lose confidence in his ability to lead a nation. George’s wife (Helena Bonham Carter) finds an unorthodox speech therapist named Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) to help her husband, and the duo strike up an unlikely friendship that helps George find his voice and lead the nation.
Director Tom Hooper and screenwriter David Seidler have crafted an entertaining and inspirational film that is filled with humor and strong work from the entire cast.
Carter’s performance could easily be dismissed, but there is a strong quietness to her character that she really captures - adding heart and soul to the film.
This may be Rush’s best work since he won the Academy Award for “Shine.” The film’s strength lies in the relationship between George and Lionel, and Rush matches Firth in every scene.
But it is Firth who makes “The King’s Speech” exceptional. His performance is more than just a person with a stammer or tic. There is a silent pain in his eyes and his struggles reminded me a lot of his performance in 2009’s “A Single Man,” although this is not the same performance. It’s another fully realized display that finally earned this gifted actor an Oscar this year, cementing his status as one of the best actors working today.
“The King’s Speech” is rated R for some language and is now available on DVD.