Now playing in theaters
Directed by Alex Aja
Yes, I’m going to be the negative one. Piranha 3D is a vapid experience. Squawk all you want. Bandy about jabs like, “What do you expect?” or “It is what it is!” The original was enjoyable but no classic piece of work, why not try to transcend that? I expected better. Particularly in the hands of Alex Aja whom I respect but seems to be stooping low to remain on the Hollywood map with this pointless, and not particularly scary, remake of the Joe Dante/Roger Corman production which had more warmth, ingenuity and frights.
Again, as it appears – based on the Los Angeles press screening I attended – I’m the only one who walked away not seeing the big deal of the picture, I’ll keep this short and sweet.
Piranha is so oversaturated with “the gimmick” that it loses sight of everything else. And that gimmick isn’t the 3D – which is terrible and flat (courtesy of being post-converted) – it’s the equation of tits, booze and douchebaggery. If that’s what you’re buying a ticket for, you’ll be completely satisfied. Aja lays on the boobies, the partying and the debauchery thick. For example, the film comes to a screeching halt for an underwater nude swimming sequence featuring Kelly Brook and Riley Steele that crescendos with the two gals making out. Excellent. But screw logic and the giant question of just how large is their lung capacity to keep them underwater for so long – gee, there’s tits (and a bit of vagina, me thinks) on the big screen! And in lackluster 3D!
I don’t mean to sound like a negative Nancy, but sandwiched somewhere in this juvenile mix for audiences who apparently don’t get laid very often, don’t get enough boobs at home or don’t take advantage of the free porn they can access on the web, there is a tepid story of a mama sheriff (Elisabeth Shue) and her three cubs (Steve McQueen, Sage Ryan and Brooklyn Proulx). Their three stories run parallel as they contend with a prehistoric piranha problem that is plaguing the fictitious Lake Victoria during Spring Break. Sheriff Forester needs to get drunken revelers off the lake before they become fish food, her oldest son is gallivanting with a “Girls Gone Wild”-like production called “Wild Wild Girls” and the two youngest kids are stranded on a small island. That’s about what you get in a lean 82-minute running time.
“Character” is overshadowed by countless montages of chiseled bodies dancing on boats and a wet t-shirt contest. “Mystery” takes the back seat to, well, there is no mystery. Adam Scott appears in the film with two dispensable characters as a geology team research the recent earthquake that loosed the piranha (not to mention shredded Richard Drefuss in a cameo that nods to Jaws‘ Matt Hooper). And Christopher Lloyd shows up to play Christopher Lloyd delivering exposition.
I get that it’s trying to embrace some level of recognition that it’s supposed to be silly and it’s supposed to be campy, but I suppose it was too much to ask for anything more. I can’t tell you how many films I’ve seen that have tried to deconstruct the genre, namely the creature feature genre. Tremors, I still think, perfectly embodies the classic modern day monster movie. It’s one that recognizes the genre rules, but is a clever, original and fun entity in and of itself. Ask me who the characters are in that film and I’ll name them all off the top of my head. Piranha presents no such characters to hang onto. But what else are you going to get from the writers of last year’s Sorority Row? Furthermore, what’s with the film suddenly ending where the third act should begin?
The film does have this: One of the most brilliantly orchestrated massacres put to film. The Spring Break piranha attack is relentless and bloody as hell, presenting the best of the human spirit (insert sarcasm) as party-goers attempt to save themselves while their friends are chewed to pieces and torn apart. This has to be KNB EFX’s new show reel. On the CG-end of things, the piranha are simply so-so; I do like their design, however.
Aja is clearly having a blast, and I hate to rain on his party, but after High Tension and The Hills Have Eyes (I’ll dismiss Mirrors), well, the man has more talent than this. It’s clearly on display during Piranha‘s the vicious attack sequences (although, am I the only one who recognized the scene that’s a rip from Greg McLean’s superior Rogue?). Piranha could have been smart. It could have been something that rivaled Tremors, but instead it’s just a SyFy original creature feature with a budget.