Rated R for sequences of strong bloody horror violence and gore, graphic nudity, sexual content, language and some drug use.
Starring: Steven R. McQueen, Elizabeth Shue, Jerry O’Connell, Adam Scott, Jessica Szohr
Written by: Peter Goldfinger/Josh Stolberg
Directed by: Alexandre Aja
Runtime: 89 minutes
As 3D is pushed by a desperate Hollywood as the “future of movies” (and higher profits of course), it’s nice to know that some filmmakers and studios aren’t quite taking it as seriously. For every Avatar, there is a My Bloody Valentine waiting in the wings, and I applaud that because it brings it back to what 3D essentially is: a gimmick. Alexandre Aja, the director of the actually pretty good Hills Have Eyes remake a few years back, knows what movie he is trying to make: a schlocky B-movie that hearkens back to the days of all gore, no substance. By that token, he succeeds: there is no substance to be found in Piranha 3D but there is a lot of gore, some good nudity, and a whole lot of 3D. And while it’s technically “dumb fun”, you can tell it tries way too hard and all the negatives are so in your face that you can’t help but notice them. Did I enjoy it? Yes. Can I in good conscience tell you to go to the theater and spend 15 bucks to see it in 3D? Oh my god no.
Considering Piranha 3D isn’t really concerned about its plot, it feels kind of dumb to give you a brief synopsis, but whatever we’re already here. It’s Spring Break time and for the small town of Lake Victoria, Arizona, that means a whole bunch of rowdy teens and a whole bunch of revenue. Sheriff Julie Forester (Elizabeth Shue) has her hands full with the sudden convergence of 20,000 people to her tiny town, and because of this has to put her young son Jake (Steven R. McQueen) in charge of his younger brother and sister, missing out on the fun. Jake will have no part of that though, and ends up becoming the location scout for Wild Wild Girls, a video series highlighting Spring Break debauchery and the brainchild of frat-man Derrick Jones (Jerry O’ Connell). You can guess who that is a parody/homage of.
Unfortunately for the inhabitants and rowdy college kids in Lake Victoria, things are about to get a little hairy. An earthquake has opened a rift below the lake, and it has released a whole wave prehistoric (who knew CGI existed in the B.C.?) piranhas ready to feed on the unsuspecting humans. For them, it’s dinner time at the Golden Corral; for the humans…not so much. Julie teams up with scientist Novak (Adam Scott) to help stop the threat and get everyone out of the water before it’s too late, but if that was successful, what kind of boring movie would this be?
Everyone involved in Piranha 3D has been touting its campiness and lameness and how it’s supposed to be a B-movie. In essence, everyone involved knows it pretty much sucks and instead of fighting against it, they chew the scenery and embrace it. Top of the heap belongs to O’ Connell, who goes so nutty as Derrick Jones that you’d think his agent threatened to drop him if this movie wasn’t successful. Thanks to his ridiculousness, he is the funniest and best part of the whole movie. Second to him is Christopher Lloyd, who only has a cameo as an old fish expert, but delivers his lines in the Doc Brown style that endeared him to audiences in the first place. Everyone else hams it up, and it looks like at the very least, it was fun to film.
Gore and nudity are here in spades, and for a movie that doesn’t rely on plot or coherence or anything of any substance, Piranha 3D relies on it pretty heavily. Thanks to the added third dimension (which is clunky from time to time, especially the opening credits), you get blood and body parts flying at you, as well as naked ladies swimming around. Don’t bring your grandmother to this, is what I’m getting at. Save for the horribly done CGI piranha, the effects are very simple and since they aren’t drawn in by computers, look both realistic and Tom Savini-style ridiculous. The kills themselves are entertaining, especially during the best 8 minutes of the film when the piranhas attack the Spring Break people (not a spoiler, unless you’re dense enough to think that wouldn’t happen). That whole scene is worth a watch once it’s on DVD.
As mentioned before, everything else is pretty blah. When not over the top, the acting just plain sucks. They try to stick in a romance sub-plot with Jake and a girl named Kelly (Jessica Szohr), but they don’t flesh anything out whatsoever and it takes stupid turns for the sake of resolution. A particular character disappears for no absolute reason, and is never mentioned again, despite being important for the previous batch of scenes. The characters have no real redeeming qualities, and are cardboard cutouts there just to take up time in between piranha kills. Simply put, take out the boobs and the gore, and you’re left with a shell of a movie that doesn’t even bother trying to make sense or seem like any thought was put behind it.
As a whole, I enjoyed Piranha 3D. It was stupid, sure, but it had enough over the top moments to keep me entertained between the lulls. There was some good gore, some nice nudity (I’m a guy, what do you want from me?), and some excellently bad performances by O’Connell and Lloyd (who apparently was dug up from the rock he was living under to do this). Still, I can’t say it’s worth paying the full 3D ticket price. Sure, it’s dumb fun, but it’s only 89 minutes (being generous) and that’s not a good bang for your almost 20 bucks, especially if you bring someone with you (hopefully not your grandmother). For horror/gore fans who are obsessed with throwbacks even though they stopped making these kinds of movies for a reason, check it out…when it’s on DVD and comes with the cardboard glasses. Everyone else, it’s not worth a watch, unless you really don’t care about spending money.