Sunday, May 15, 2011

Piranha 3-D


Let me say now, I'm probably more likely, on given day, to watch 1978's Piranha than I am to watch Jaws.

It might be because the seminal nature of Jaws gives it more baggage going in. Or it might actually be that because of a number of factors, including my age, I saw Piranha first, so it's more seminal to me.

Roger Corman, previously noted as My idol, commissioned Piranha, surprisingly late in the game, as a rip-off of Jaws. With a screenplay by John Sayles and directed by Joe Dante, both on the verge of great things, the movie turned out surprisingly above what one would expect from a low-budget ripoff on nearly every level.

Piranha 3-D is, for what it's worth, more ripoff than remake itself. Alexandre Aja, presumably having burned out much of the goodwill he had after the surprise international success of Haute Tension, directs this bit of knowing silliness seemingly with that in mind, beginning with a Jaws homage of sorts, complete with Richard Dreyfuss. The scene isn't much, just hanging there as a reference and little more.

There are any number of issues one could make, the least of which would be the shifting tone, which seemed less confidently teasing and more confused. Not to mention, the Jerry O'Connell looking pretty haggard as the Joe Francis stand-in - parody? - in the rather obvious Girls Gone Wild subplot.

The fact is, the movie doesn't really have a story until about an hour - or two-thirds of the movie - in, and not because it's flaunting a creative disinterest in "proper" movie storytelling, it just flat bogs down in a lot of detail over a story that should have moved along like a freight train.

The one thing I have to unabashedly appreciate is the sheriff played by Elisabeth Shue. Not only does she do an excellent job with the part, the writing avoids giving her a number of the pitfalls that similar characters in movies often get. Frankly, a similar movie that put that character solidly in the lead might have worked.

As it is, I found it tolerable, but I'm not even sure how much of that was due to pretty low expectations going in.


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