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Overall Rating

Worth A Look34.38%
Just Average: 21.88%
Pretty Crappy: 6.25%
Sucks: 3.13%

3 reviews, 14 user ratings

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Piranha 3-D
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Fin De Sicko"
4 stars

“Piranha 3D” is crude, stupid, obnoxious, disgusting and relentlessly juvenile--the cinematic equivalent of a little kid repeatedly opening his mouth in order to show off his chewed-up food. Under most circumstances, this might be considered to be supremely harsh criticism but in the case of this particular film, it is more like a general observation. This is a film that has nothing more on its mind than providing viewers with a slick’n’sleazy exploitation item that crams more blood and body parts (attached and otherwise) into a 90-minute time frame than any other movie in history. That it manages to achieve this admittedly questionable artistic goal is perhaps not that surprising but what does come as a bit of a shock is that it manages to do so in a reasonably entertaining manner, provided that you happen to be on the same base wavelength.

The film takes place in Lake Victoria, a normally quiet town that, as the story opens, is about to be hit by 50,000 drunken kids making the annual pilgrimage for Spring Break. However, something even more dangerous and terrifying than a gaggle of over-served twerps is on the way as well when an underwater tremor opens up a giant crevasse and unleashes thousands of extra-vicious and supposedly extinct piranha that have been living there since prehistoric times. While the fish prowl the waters in search of lunch, the overworked town sheriff, Julie Forester (Elisabeth Shue), heads out to take a geological research team headed by Novak (Adam Scott) to the epicenter of the tremor, make the inevitable gruesome discovery and try to rush back to town in order to get everyone out of the water before it is too late. What she doesn’t know is that one of the thousands in the water is her teen son, Jake (Steven R. McQueen)--instead of staying at home and babysitting his younger siblings, he is off on a boat helping a smut video producer (Jerry O’Connell) find locations for his next “Wild Wild Girls” video epic along with a pair of sexy starlets (Kelly Brook and Riley Steele) and his would-be sweetheart (Jessica Szohr). Of course, if Julie returns in time and successfully gets everyone out of the water and the location hunt goes without a hitch, there really wouldn’t be much of a movie so needless to say, things go hinky and the piranha arrive to kick off one of the most deranged sequences of extended over-the-top carnage ever seen, all in the redoubtable glory of 3D.

As some of you with longer memories and broader tastes no doubt know, “Piranha 3D” is a remake of the 1978 Roger Corman production that he put together to cash in on the success of the original “Jaws” and like that film, it has the same basic conceptual problem that director Joe Dante (making his solo directing debut after co-helming “Hollywood Boulevard”) and writer John Sayles (making his screenwriting debut) faced 30-odd years ago--how does one sustain a feature-length story in which there can logically be only be one major piranha attack since no one would be stupid enough to enter the water again afterwards? In the case of Sayles and Dante, they worked around this problem by constructing the story as a chase narrative with the heroes pursuing the errant fish downriver as they hit a summer camp and a resort area before making a final break for the ocean. Beyond that, once they made sure to include enough nudity and gore to satisfy Corman, they filled in the blanks with in-jokes, appearances from familiar genre veterans such as Kevin McCarthy, Barbara Steele and the great Dick Miller, surprisingly biting political commentary and a certain degree of ironic humor, such as having the heroes destroy the piranha in the end by unleashing pollutants into the water. These elements helped to elevate the film above the other “Jaws” knock-offs that were flooding theaters at the time, including the big-budget rip-off “Jaws 2” and made it into a cult favorite that also launched the careers of both Dante and Sayles.

This time around, however, it is evident right from the start that director Alexandre Aja and screenwriters Pete Goldfinger & Josh Stolberg won’t be nursing similar ambitions with their take on the material. They have essentially put all their eggs in one basket by concentrating on the one major attack scene that arrives at around the one-hour mark and spend the time getting to that point by treading narrative water and occasionally dropping random people--ranging from scientists to a rock diver to Richard Dreyfuss (in a cameo meant to evoke his character from “Jaws”)--into the drink so as to keep the audience from getting restless. Beyond that, having made sure to include enough nudity and gore to satisfy Caligula, they have filled the rest of that hour with crude humor, cameos from people ranging from porn stars to Eli Roth and lots of things being hurled at the audience (literally at one point) via the miracle of 3D. Clearly they decided to conserve their creative energy for the extended attack sequence and it is a doozy as thousands of people are messily chewed up before our eyes and they even throw in some non-piranha mayhem to keep things fresh--one person is bisected by a flying wire, there is a motorboat massacre punctuated by a girl getting scalped when her hair gets entwined in the outboard motor and Eli Roth suffers a demise so grisly that it seems a bit much even by his standards. Oh yes, there is also the much-discussed demise of Jerry O’Connell’s character--I won’t ruin it for you if you haven’t yet heard about it but suffice it to say, it may single-handed destroy concession stand hot dog sales across the country.

“Piranha 3D” never comes close to being either a legitimate classic like “Jaws” or a lower-level masterpiece along the lines of Dante’s “Piranha” but while it may lack the ambition of those films, it does have enough going for it to provide viewers of a certain type with a good time. Although Aja, whose previous efforts have included such duds “High Tension,” the remake of “The Hills Have Eyes” and “Mirrors,” is still not a very good director by any stretch of the imagination, the sheer exuberance that he brings to the project keeps things chugging along and while super-violent, it lacks the unpleasantly sadistic edge that overwhelmed his previous efforts. The eclectic cast offers a wide range of performance styles from the straightforward approach taken by Shue to the scenery-chomping work from O’Connell to the charismatic twinkling of Kelly Brook that somehow manage to work well together. As for the cameo bits, the Dreyfuss one is a bit of a disappointment considering the advanced hype but Ving Rhames (as the deputy sheriff who staves off the fish in a singular manner) and Christopher Lloyd (as the crazy scientist charged with explaining things) definitely make the most of their brief screen time. (At the screening I attended, the place went nuts when Lloyd made his entrance.) There is also something to be said for the sheer outrageousness of the attack centerpiece--at a time when many films prefer to play things safe so as to avoid potentially offending audiences, this one gleefully tries to be as gross as possible and that palpable sense of enthusiasm keeps it from bogging down into becoming a bloody bore. I would have also mentioned the funny bit that serves as the film’s capper but its impact is lessened considerably by the fact that the studio has inexplicably decided to reveal it in the TV commercials.

“Piranha 3D” has plenty of problems that keep it from getting to the next level; the teen characters couldn’t be duller if they tried, Aja’s lack of directorial skill becomes very apparent during the brief moments when he eschews the silliness and tries to develop a legitimate sense of suspense and the combination of the shoddy post-shooting 3D conversion and inherent dimness of underwater photography ensures that there are several scenes in which it is almost impossible to determine what is going on. (However, it should be noted that when the film gets to the extended naked lesbian underwater ballet sequence between Kelly Brook and Riley Steele--which may be a bizarre homage to the best two minutes of “The Hunger”--that scene is lit so brightly that it seems as though the frolicking is going on in the midst of a nuclear explosion.) That said, it does have a certain charm to it--a dumb and infantile charm, to be sure--and it kept me reasonably amused throughout. “Piranha 3D” may not be a “good” movie by any acceptable definition of the word but it is a fun one and sometimes that is all that it takes. Of course, if the notion of seeing fake blood spilled in BP-style amounts doesn’t strike you as “fun,” you are going to want to pretty much disregard everything that I have said and stay far away from it.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=18130&reviewer=389
originally posted: 08/22/10 15:41:48
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User Comments

9/12/17 morris campbell the original is better this one is lame IMHO 1 stars
9/10/11 Captain00Kirk Gore, sex, and nudity.You get your money's worth. www.youtube.com/Captain00Kirk 4 stars
7/09/11 Jeep a pair of stars for the boobie fun, plus Gianna in a mainstream!? 2 stars
3/16/11 art A GEAT REMAKE!,see it as a doubEl-feature with the 1978 original! 5 stars
1/31/11 Charles Tatum Trashy and surprisingly gory 4 stars
1/14/11 mr.mike DVD version is just OK. 3 stars
10/12/10 Josie Cotton is a goddess Almost as good as Corman's/Dante's original 4 stars
9/15/10 Lloyd Camp horror at its best! 5 stars
9/02/10 Pete Kesic Easily the most gratuitous, over-the-top, rediculousness ive ever seen on film. 10/10 5 stars
8/29/10 M TITS 3D 2 stars
8/28/10 Mitch Dolan i had a blast at the theater with this one! NUDIE BALLET FTW 5 stars
8/23/10 Joseph If you want to have a good time, you have found the right movie 4 stars
8/22/10 James What a great time!! This movie was barrels of fun. 5 stars
8/22/10 Rhys A nice campy throwback to the original 78 film wth nice gore and plenty of nudity. 4 stars
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  20-Aug-2010 (R)
  DVD: 11-Jan-2011


  DVD: 11-Jan-2011

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