Piranha 3D October 11, 2016
There’s something endearing about watching respectable actors keep straight faces on in the scope of a batshit monster movie. In no way would an average person have to deal with murderous (and giant) sharks, crocodiles, anacondas, or spiders, but we’ve seen everyone, from Samuel L. Jackson to Richard Dreyfuss, wrestle with such conflicts with the same level of seriousness as Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein uncovering the Watergate Scandal. Such is ridiculous but delightful, and the genre, for all its raging familiarities and its sometimes pertinent issues with deciding tone, has a hard time going stale because of this actor centric phenomenon.
2010’s Piranha 3D is no different, but I’m pressed to call it as much fun as Deep Blue Sea or its 1978 counterpart because it more prominently resembles a violent sexploitation film than a cheekily humorous creature feature. Moments shine in their trope welcoming panache, from a climax that features the classic Get Out of the Water line (which, of course, only means that all innocent parties cringingly make their way into the water with prompt disobedience) to the never tiring cliché of skinny dipping beauties taking a swim at precisely the worst moment in time. But the film’s perhaps too generous with its flashes of pink and its focusing on mind-numbingly misguided persons, and so it feels like a spoof that also doesn’t appear to much be in on the joke.
Piranha 3D, as expected, revolves around a small town’s hellacious spring break following the flukey release of prehistoric piranhas into its tourist attracting waters. The solving of the issue is up to the admirably patient Sheriff Julie Forester (Elisabeth Shue) and a band of desperate law enforcement agents, with our emotions conversely being manipulated by the fact that her children (Steven R. McQueen, Brooklyn Proulx, Sage Ryan) rebel against her and accidentally find themselves being terrorized by the man-eating gaggle of fishes.
Whether calling the film a race against time is up to the viewer, but because trying to off thousands of toothy beasts is next to impossible when quick reproduction is a thing, it’s more fitting to call Piranha 3D a battle that will never really be won. But the thrills are mostly efficient and the performances are decent — take its barely better than SyFy channel special effects or its stabs at parody seriously and you’ll get nowhere.
My problem with Piranha 3D, though, doesn’t much have to do with any of the aforementioned characteristics — my problem is that I find it too troublingly sleazy to be fun. It spreads its grease too thickly — the pornography subplot is fun for two minutes before it starts to become monotonous — and as a result its tension is botched because we get to know its chintzy side protagonists better than we do the far more interesting Shue and Adam Scott led grouping of real-life superheroes.
So I’d call it all uneven, but its moments of joyous bloodlines are still acutely effectual. It gets the job done, sure — I’m just not so positive than the final result is as self-aware as I’d like it to be. At least the final shot is killer and at least the defining climactic bloodbath is beautifully insane. Both count, much as I’d like to write Piranha 3D completely off. C+