Piranha 3D (2010 movie) review…

Piranha 3D (2010 movie) review after the break…

Piranha 3D (2010 movie) review…

Sometimes, it just feels as though movies have stopped trying to be “good” and are simply aiming for “good enough.” Unfortunately, this movie doesn’t even seem to be aiming for that less-then-lofty goal, merely attempting to squeak by if it reaches “close enough.” The movie’s lack of enthusiasm to build a compelling story to match the amount of gore (and nudity) is yet another indication of how lazy Hollywood has become with their mainstream horror offerings or how cynical it is to think that they can attempt to induce scares through legitimate suspense from teens and tweens. Either way, it’s a loss for the audience that intends to watch “Piranha 3D,” a 2010 movie directed by Alexandre Aja.

Everything old is new again to a new generation and “Piranha 3D” is the new generation of “remools,” which are remakes that can also be used as re-boots, re-boots that can also be sequels and sequels that can also be remakes. There are few moving parts in a movie like “Piranha” which focuses on killer, prehistoric piranhas that are released into the modern era when an earthquake opens up the underground cavern they’ve been breeding in to the outside world (and lots of humans). The female sheriff (Elizabeth Shue, one of many actors in this movie proving that there is no paycheck too small) must rely upon her eldest son Jake to watch over her two younger children during that heralded college mating season known as “Spring Break.” Jake, though, being the strapping young hormonal lad that he is, is roped into being Derrick Jones’ escort through the town. Derrick’s character is a thinly-veiled parody of real-life adult entertainment entrepreneur Joe Francis, creator of the “Girls Gone Wild” franchise. Idle hands always being the Devil’s playthings, the two young children eventually find themselves in harm’s way when they paddle out to a nearby island but forget to secure the canoe, stranding them perilously close to where the piranhas circulate (because pushing the baby carriage into oncoming traffic never gets old for the dim-witted).

A movie such as this one almost seemingly thumbs it’s nose at the more discriminating viewer in a dare to critique it. While such a fighting spirit (more like an oppositional attitude) is certainly a welcome sight, it wasn’t really necessary, given that this film demonstrates that it has the courage to provide the viewer with all the ingredients of a B-movie classic: A ridiculous plot, copious amounts of nudity (for a mainstream Hollywood film) and more gore then a Democratic presidential campaign in 2000.

Therefore, it’s more then a bit disturbing that this film really underwhelms in terms of actual story – In brief, there is none. What eventually emerges as a story is more like a few character arcs resembling a story more then anything else – Young Jake wants to have sex with equally young Kelly and takes the impromptu job from Derrick in front of Kelly to prove his manliness. Young Kelly wants to be seen as her own woman and not as a tool for her latest boyfriend and, to prove that she’s just as sassy as the “real” women employed by Derrick, partakes in the amoral activities herself and all of their perils. Everyone else… Just floats along until the piranhas realize that there’s a new all-you-can-eat buffet in town called “Spring Break” and decide to dine out for the afternoon. There’s a completely suspenseless series of scenes where a team of divers discover the newly opened underground lake – Guess who gets eaten? Do you really need to guess?

“Piranha” does have *two* aces up it’s sleeves, though, and plays them as best as they can, given the script – Copious amounts of nudity and graphic gore. Quite honestly, it is a little refreshing to see a film “go there” for the simple reason that Hollywood films are stereotypically timid in both categories. The eye candy has certainly increased in quality since the 1970s, with the new movie even employing adult entertainment actresses (who, by virtue of their industry, are far from shy from showing their front) for some of the birthday suit close-ups. With the advent of CGI, the gore has also increased, not just in quantity but in quality as well.

OK – I lie. It was slightly refreshing to see a film refrain from the usual “evil corporation dumps toxic chemicals into the lake, creating the monster” type of sub-plot that these types of movies tend to have. In this movie, the piranhas simply exist, no explanation which doesn’t harm the movie much at all.

What is truly mystifying about this film, though, is why so many faded stars are involved with this production to begin with. Richard Dreyfuss? Ving Rhames? Christopher Lloyd? Dina Meyer? Elizabeth Shue? Eli Roth? Jerry O’Connell? Are you kidding me?! Why are most of these people here? Why are ANY of these people here in a script that is more video game then movie, more CGI then live action? Richard Dreyfuss reportedly gave his entire salary for the movie to charity but why would someone pay him $50,000 dollars for what is essentially a glorified cameo at the beginning of the film? His character adds nothing to the production except for a few older audience members pointing at the screen and exclaiming, “Hey, isn’t that Richard Dreyfuss?”

With so little actual material at hand except for “Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy saves girl,” this production could have really used some innovative story-telling techniques to freshen up the material. Why not employ the “found footage” style of “Blair Witch” and “Cloverfield” with the Derrick character? Or switch to security cameras for the Spring Break festival turned bloodbath? Why not a mystery of disappearing people with the police closing in on the cause (prehistoric angry piranhas) and creating suspense that way?

Or, to be blunt… SUSPENSE GOOD. NO SUSPENSE BAD.

Shots of people in the water through a possible piranha’s perspective will only get you so far. Yes, that is a type of suspense but that type of suspense gets very old very quickly. Or, why not just not show the piranhas at all until the very end? Start off with Lloyd’s rock fossil, go to drawings, visit an aquarium to see a normal piranha and realize that you’re not dealing with a normal piranha and then make the reveal?

There’s a reason why James Cameron’s “Aliens” is a modern-day classic while the modern-day “Piranha” (of which James Cameron directed the sequel during his early career) most certainly isn’t – Story. In a way, “Aliens” is a lot like “Piranha,” both feature creatures that the population are ill-equipped to deal with. Yet while one had a compelling storyline, the other one simply doesn’t. Enjoy nudity? There’s a good portion of that in this movie. Like gore? Your boat has arrived. Fancy a good story? Look elsewhere or be prepared to hit that fast-forward button an awful lot.

 

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