I'll Have the Chicken
Call me crass, but it's impossible to talk about Piranha 3DD without exploring women's breasts--specifically, their effectiveness as male-targeted entertainment's go-to attention-grabbers in the Internet Age. Now that hour-long clips of men and women of every conceivable shape, size, race, and orientation doing absolutely everything you can imagine* are available on-line (for free), the notion of marketing a movie solely on the "spectacle" of fake-breasted bimbos baring it all while getting eaten by flying CGI fish just seems...quaint.
But here comes John Gulager, following up Alexandre Aja's surprise hit with a knock-off (knockers-off?) as unnecessary as the audition tape of the woman pictured above. This is exactly the kind of movie that the phrase "critic-proof" was invented to describe: people will pay to see it for any number of reasons--none of which have to do with hopes for a quality entertainment experience.
That's a sad reality, but the sadder truth is that Gulager and screenwriters Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan, and Joel Soisson have used these low expectations as a shield instead of a weapon. Aja had a ton of fun with a remake that everyone was positive would suck--the results were fun, sometimes, shocking, and consistently entertaining. Gulager and company give us the remake audiences expected the first time out, a by-the-book horror movie with excessive boobs and blood and nothing else going for it.
We open with a news report describing the horrible piranha attacks at Lake Something-or-other a year ago (in movie time). At the end of the last film, the ancient killer fish appeared to have been defeated--until a cranky marine biologist played by Christopher Lloyd announced that they'd mutated and gotten bigger. Part one ended with a bloody cliffhanger that the sequel conveniently ignores: the piranha just went away for awhile, we're led to believe, laying eggs in other lakes and waiting for the box office receipts to tell them if and when they could come out and play again.
They reemerge, hungrier, nastier, and more computer-generated than ever, this time targeting a water park managed by sleazy entrepreneur Chet (David Koechner). In an effort to revitalize his business, he's announced a grand-re-opening, featuring nude decks and beaver cams. He's even paid off a local cop to keep his illegal siphoning of lake water off the authorities' radar. The lake, of course, is now home to thousands of razor-toothed predators, and Piranha 3DD ends in bloody heaps of silicone and sinew.
The filmmakers try their best to jazz up the colors they use to paint over all those numbers by injecting a "hilarious", "meta" David Hasselhoff cameo. But transforming a Z-grade horror film into Airplane! at the three-quarter mark reeks of desperation. It's especially upsetting because the movie's middle portion is relatively coherent, borderline entertaining. Danielle Panabaker plays the daughter-in-law of the sleazy water park owner as a sleuthing marine biology student out to stop the fish. She's joined by a nerdy friend (Matt Bush) and her ex-boyfriend (Chris Zylka), who also happens to be the shady cop. None of this rises above most slasher movie second acts, mind you, but you'll look fondly upon these scenes when suffering through the bit where a couple is mauled during sex because a piranha made its way into the girl's vagina--and sat there, unnoticed, until the moment of climax days later.
The big problem here is that Gulager and company want you to believe that they've made a fun, outrageous movie without actually providing anything to believe in. The severed penis gag was covered in Part One, as was the gratuitous nudity. And the sequel's gore is downright pathetic. I know that following KNB Effects' amazing, old-school, grand-scale meat factory is a difficult feat, but the people behind Piranha 3DD don't even try. They settle for mildly viscous red water filled with generic severed limbs that look like picked over Halloween Store clearance items.
Im not crazy for thinking the movie could have been much, much better. Dunstan and Melton wrote one of the more interesting Saw sequels (that would be Part Six), and I was shocked to see their names attached to this low-frequency garbage. I don't know if someone told them to turn off their brains, or if they tuned out after the check cleared. Whatever the case, the script fails at delivering solid "smart-dumb" gags; in a movie like this, that's about all an audience can hope for.
Piranha 3DD is more nut-buster than gut-buster, a hasty, blood-soaked excuse for naked girls to parade their cartoonish wares about the screen. Maybe I'm getting old, but none of them did a thing for me, outside of providing a subconscious reminder to check my tire pressure. It's depressing to think that a second sequel is probably in the works, and that it may do well enough to warrant a third or a fourth. At the end of this film, we learn that the killer fish can walk. So can I, and so should you--into any number of theatres showing better movies.
*And some things you can't and probably shouldn't.