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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Movie Review: PIRANHA 3D


"The first bite draws blood. The blood draws the pack."
-- Mr. Goodman

Piranha 3D is a 2010 horror-comedy directed by Alexandre Aja that serves as a remake of the 1978 film of the same name. When an underwater earthquake causes a rift to open on the floor of Lake Victoria, another subterranean lake is exposed to the surface. Within those depths lie thousands of allegedly extinct piranha who come up to feast right around the time of the annual Lake Victoria spring break festivities. Saddened by the fact that he's stuck babysitting his younger siblings, Jake Forester (Steven R. McQueen) willingly accepts an invitation to be a "location scout" for Derrick Jones (Jerry O'Connell) and his Wild Wild Girls film crew. The son of local sheriff Julie Forester (Elisabeth Shue), Jake knows that what he's doing goes against everything she probably wants; what he doesn't know, however, is that there is a very fishy menace lurking just beneath the water's surface. And with the throngs of college co-eds partying out on the lake, it's only a matter of time until the massacre can ensue.

I wanted to re-watch Piranha 3D in anticipation of the sequel, Piranha 3DD, which is set for release tomorrow. As many of you may have seen in my 2012 Summer Movie Preview, I'm rather excited for the sequel, and all of that excitement stems from the fact that I loved its predecessor oh so much. Now, I'm sure there are a lot of you scratching your heads, wondering why anyone could ever love a movie like Piranha 3D, but if you'll allow it, I shall explain.

Now, I could start off by talking about the screenplay or the acting or any of those typical facets of film that I usually like to talk about, but the point would be a bit moot. The acting is decent considering the genre - although, I was then and still am impressed with O'Connell's superbly comedic performance - and we're getting a slew of fantastic cameo appearances from the likes of Richard Dreyfuss, Christopher Lloyd and Eli Roth, as well as a pitch-perfect over-the-top bit by Ving Rhames. There are a few other actors who play more important plot roles - namely, Adam Scott and Jessica Szohr - but it's really the bit appearances and the leads who steal the show. And the screenplay is your run-of-the-mill horror creature tale: creature escapes, creature kills people, heroes fight back. That's really all it boils down to. However, there's something about this film that makes it just a little bit better.

At its very base, the film industry relies on one standard: to entertain the audience. When we go to the movies, we can have a slew of emotions. Sometimes we laugh, sometimes we cry, sometimes we scream in terror. But a good film will deliver whatever emotion it hopes to convey, and in that moment, we as the audience can be entertained. This is where Piranha 3D excels. Yes, the story and the concept are ridiculous. Yes, the special effects are shoddy and over-the-top. And yes, there's nothing terribly profound about anything that happens. But it still proves to be one of the more entertaining films in recent years. It goes all out and never lets off the gas, and although it's ridiculous, I still can't help but smile and laugh and cringe along with it all.

To be fair, I should probably say that my biggest love for this film is the fact that it directly references Jaws - admittedly my favorite film of all time - on many an occasion. From the very get-go, we're getting a steady stream. In the opening scene, we see an elderly Richard Dreyfuss essentially reprising his role from Jaws (although it isn't credited as such, most likely for copyright reasons and all that jazz). He's singing along to "Show Me the Way to Go Home" on the radio whilst attempting to catch a "fast fish." Fast-forward a little bit, and we see Ving Rhames' deputy talking about how the spring break season is a "big financial week for our town." Any fans of Jaws will be squealing with glee at these references. Or maybe it's just me being a fanatic. I'll admit that's definitely a possibility.

When it was released in 2010, Piranha 3D actually became one of the surprise critical and commercial successes of the summer. After spending a modest budget of $24 million to make the film, it returned over $83 million worldwide, and a lot of that success had to do with positive word of mouth. As of today, the film holds a seventy-three percent approval rating on, where one can find the following consensus:
Playing exactly to expectations for a movie about killer fish run amok, Piranha 3D dishes out gore, guffaws and gratuitous nudity with equal glee.
I couldn't have said it better myself.

Movie Review Summary
Grade: B
Should You Watch It? Yes

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