July 27, 2010
This Movie Bites
In a little less than a month, Piranha 3D will be here. If you haven’t seen the previews, you can likely guess what it’s all about based solely on the title: killer piranhas brutally consume idiotic people, and it all happens in the titillating third dimension. As much as I’m knocking it, Piranha 3D has a great cast (including the long-absent Christopher Lloyd) and appears to have fully embraced its “B” movie status. With any luck, it’ll be the sleeper popcorn flick of the summer.
This won’t be the first movie to try and capitalize on aquatic terror by way of schlocky 3D effects, though. In 1983, Jaws 3-D hit theaters, and I can only imagine that people flocked to it hoping for an intense—and blood-soaked—follow-up to the inevitably inferior Jaws 2 (which, of course, had no shot at holding a candle to the movie that gave birth to summer blockbusters: Jaws). Though I didn’t have the “benefit” of seeing this one in 3D, I think it’s safe to say that this is one of the worst, most blatantly exploitative sequels to come from a major studio in the history of the medium.
Let’s start with the story. In short, it’s a shoddy rehash of what takes place in Jaws. A money-hungry businessman (a mayor in the original) puts the lives of hundreds of people in danger by choosing to ignore a contingency of experts who warn him that a 35-foot man-eating great white is trapped inside his theme park. What follows, of course, is pandemonium as the monstrous fish maims and terrorizes a boatload of innocent tourists.
It seems director Joe Alves took a cue from Spielberg by deciding to try and build some tension by waiting a while to finally reveal the deadly, almost otherworldly mega killer. But this unveiling surrenders any intensity it might otherwise have had by forcing us to endure stale dialogue and characters that are cardboard cutouts; ironically, the very thing audiences expect to find in just this sort of horror movie. For some this is all well and good because the movie is billed as a 3D terror-fest—no one is expecting Shakespeare. But come on—the squandering of the talent involved (namely Dennis Quaid, Lea Thompson, and Louis Gossett Jr.) is absolutely inexcusable, and it demonstrates two things: the horrendous nature of the script and the inability of Alves to elicit a single memorable performance out of any one of these actors who are now universally recognized as A-list stars.
Oh, and guess what theme park Bruce the Third is trapped in? SeaWorld.
This is an example of product placement at its most errant. I don’t know what SeaWorld hoped to accomplish through their involvement with Jaws 3-D; maybe they thought people would flock to Orlando because they wanted to get trapped in an underwater tunnel while a giant shark rammed its fragile glass tubing. Fun!
If anything, all this movie does is flesh out (pun intended) a sense of incompetence on the part of the long-running deep-sea attraction. For example, after catching the offspring of the killer-of-the-hour, park officials neglect the infant great white by displaying it in a shallow tank. It dies, and people walk away to buy cotton candy, apparently completely unaffected by the ordeal. What’s more, the movie also suggests that SeaWorld patrons are idiots, as they laugh and clap while Dennis Quaid frantically tries to prevent a group of pyramid skiers from becoming chum.
Then there are the 3D bits. A severed arm floats ominously in front of the camera. Later, when Bruce is demolished by a live grenade, parts of his dismembered body (including a piece of his jaw and what looks like a section of large intestine) remain static on the screen for a solid five seconds. At one point Quaid fires a harpoon gun directly at the audience.
It’s all very revolutionary.
Not to beat a dead horse, but the non-3D effects are absolutely nauseating, too. This movie was released 8 years after Jaws, and its star—the shark, of course—looks like something a film school student stitched together in the wee hours of the morning with an Etch-A-Sketch and construction paper. It’s light years worse than what Spielberg and company crafted almost a decade prior. At one point it dumbly hurtles toward the screen, not bothering to, you know, swim, and eventually the great prop slowly opens its—wait for it!—jaws only to shatter a glass barrier no one in the audience knew existed.
The shards of glass, of course, fly toward us in the most gimmicky manner imaginable.
I’ll paint one more picture for you. At the conclusion, a pair of horribly rendered, superimposed dolphins perform celebratory somersaults as Dennis Quaid and his love interest pump their pruned fists in the air.
Its awfulness did draw one or two unintentional hardy-har-hars from me, so I guess I’ll save it the shame of walking away with the dreaded goose egg. Be thankful for your half-star, Joe Alves.
Be very thankful.
out of 5
Check out a trailer for Jaws 3-D: