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E.C. McMullen Jr.
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Head Production Designer
JOSEPH CROSS, BRIANA EVIGAN,
Special Effects Make-Up
A SIERRA NEVADA
(MICHAEL MADSEN & JOHN SAVAGE).
"WET-T! T! T! T-SHIRTS!
The original PIRANHA was producer Roger Corman's dryhump on Speilberg's JAWS. But that was the 1970s and nobody could jump on a genre like Roger.
Corman found budding talent in his new screenwriter John Sayles (ALLIGATOR, THE HOWLING, LONESTAR) and director Joe Dante (THE HOWLING, GREMLINS, GREMLINS 2, THE HOMECOMING, THE SCREWFLY SOLUTION). The upshot being, Roger produced the only massively successful JAWS wannabee! On a budget of only $600k, New World Pictures' PIRANHA left the U.S. box office with $6 million, which wasn't too shabby in 1978 dollars! Anytime your movie brings in 10 times its budget you're sitting pretty sweet! Then it went on to greater money as United Artists distributed it or sold it around the world. Roger had it remade in 1995 for TV and it did okay, not great, but okay. Then Hollywood's duke of remakes, Alexander Aja, remade it a second time and here we are.
Now, as then, PIRANHA 3D has references to the original JAWS, and you can't miss it as the movie opens with Matt Boyd (Richard Dreyfuss: JAWS) singing "Show me the way to go home", as he sits in his fishing boat out in the middle of an Arizona lake.
Actually PIRANHA 3D is loaded with these kinds of references. The piranhas are supposedly from the Mesozoic era and re-enter our modern world when an earthquake fractures the bed of Lake Victoria, where the primitive varmints have been living in a giant underwater cavern.
No I won't launch into a science moment because the very idea is so damn stupid that the rest of the audience was laughing at it and every other knot-headed scientific explanation for them that local fish expert (in the middle of the Arizona desert), Mr. Goodman (Christopher Lloyd: SCHIZOID, THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI ACROSS THE 8TH DIMENSION, CLUE, WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT, THE ADDAMS FAMILY, ADDAMS FAMILY VALUES, PREMONITION, VALERIE ON THE STAIRS) offered.
After the Dreyfuss opening, we see the birth of a new Spring Break.
Everybody is having a good time except for Jake Forester (Steven R. McQueen). For some reason, even though he quasi attracts the stupid, yet cute as a button Kelly (Jessica Szohr: THE HOUSE AT THE END OF THE DRIVE), he's a pathetically shy dweeb. Soon Kooky Kelly runs off with the next party of assholes who drive up.
Even Jake's little ten year old big mouth sister, Laura (Brooklyn Proulx: THE LAZARUS PROJECT, SHELTER) is trying to find him a date, and nearly succeeds when she introduces him to the flirty and oh, so sexual, Danni (Kelly Brook: SORTED, RIPPER, ABSOLON, HOUSE OF 9). But even she is taken from the bashful Jake by the abrupt appearance of her diarrhea-mouthed boss, Derrick Jones (Jerry O'Connell: SCREAM 2, ROOM 6). Derrick is a porn maker and is there to take advantage of young girls and shoot his videos while adding as many coeds as possible. Thing is, he needs someone who knows the area. Will Jake be his Desert Rat?
Well of COURSE Jake wants to go out and maybe wind up having sex with two hot porn actresses! If only he didn't have to babysit his two bratty siblings.
That night, we follow Sheriff Julie Forester (Elisabeth Shue: HOLLOW MAN) and Deputy Fallon (VING RHAMES: JACOB'S LADDER, THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS, PULP FICTION, BRINGING OUT THE DEAD, FINAL FANTASY: THE SPIRITS WITHIN, DAWN OF THE DEAD , SURROGATES), as they investigate a missing person report on Mr. Boyd, and discover his boat floating in some reeds. Merry Mishaps occur.
Something else that unfortunately hasn't changed is the
!!!UNFAIR RACIAL CLICHE ALERT!!!:
Then go to URCA/Piranha3D to see why this movie gets one. But beware! The URCA contains SPOILERS!
Joe Dante's PIRANHA was released back in 1978, the year Aja was born. And here we are, 32 years later, and little has changed except for the special effects. Working off a script by Pete Goldfinger and Josh Stohlberg (SORORITY ROW), very little has been changed and nothing special has been added. Except for the pathetic excuse for 3D which was digitally added after the fact, as PIRANHA was shot in standard 2D. The after-the-fact 3D conversion is so awful, the production companies involved should demand their money back from inner-D.
Still, if I had seen this in regular 2D, I probably would have enjoyed it much more. For one thing, I wouldn't have had the awkward, hard glass 3D specs with their tiny lenses in their big fat frames, which made me feel I was watching the movie through binoculars. I feel I have to give kudos to movies actually shot in 3D like CHICKEN LITTLE, CORALINE, MONSTERS VS. ALIENS, THE FINAL DESTINATION, and AVATAR. Their 3D viewing glasses had frames that were light and the lenses were large: You didn't notice the frames in vision or weight.
One thing Aja and crew bring to the table is the way they keep it fast and light.
The blood and gore are played for laughs by giving us victims we don't care about or outright despise. Stand-outs include Christopher Lloyd, revisiting his Doc Brown character, and Jerry O'Connell, who brings a hearty, maniacal coke snorting intensity to Derrick Jones. And there is a brief cameo by Eli Roth, but he isn't given a chance to shine. I think since INGLORIOUS BASTERDS, more people want to see him in bigger roles. Also look out for the brief cameo by Dina Meyer (JOHNNY MNEMONIC, STARSHIP TROOPERS, BATS, STAR TREK: NEMESIS, SAW - SAW IV)
PIRANHA 3D doesn't depart from the original PIRANHA, or even the TV remake, to stand out. And despite Roth cutting his teeth at Troma Pictures, it doesn't have the balls-to-the-wall dangerously fun attitude of movies like POULTRYGIEST.
It's a decent little direct to video movie, but nothing about it feels like a theater movie; a cinematic experience. Still, it truly falls into the so-bad-it's-good category and, in the words of Robert Englund, it's "disposable fun". So for that I give it 3 negative Shriek Girls.
This review copyright 2010 E.C.McMullen Jr.