REVIEW: Piranha 3D [2010]

Score: 4/10 | ★ ½

Rating: R | Runtime: 88 minutes | Release Date: August 20th, 2010 (USA)
Studio: Dimension Films
Director(s): Alexandre Aja
Writer(s): Pete Goldfinger & Josh Stolberg

“We are off to shoot some wild porn with these wild, wild goddesses”

You have to respect Piranha 3D director Alexandre Aja—although question how a guy who made his name with Haute tension could have his career fall to comedic horrors—and writers Pete Goldfinger and Josh Stolberg for giving credit where credit was due, specially thanking the original Piranha’s helmer, Joe Dante. Right from the start, they knew this endeavor was one of homage and heavy exploitation; they’re mission to get as much blood, boobs, and chewed up flesh onscreen as possible. Like Dante before them, himself ripping off Steven Spielberg’s Jaws for a quick Roger Corman romp in the sea, Aja and company went for broke to entertain and titillate rather than intellectually stimulate. And it seems to have worked since it more than tripled its budget worldwide and put enough green in its producers’ coffers to greenlight a sequel.

I get the fun aspect—I do—but as far as calling this a quality film or having a desire for a second viewing, I’ll have to pass. It started pretty good, though, showcasing Richard Dreyfus looking much like an older version of his own Matt Hooper in his iconic turn opposite a great white. Alone in his fishing boat, beer staying cool as it floats in the water, his line gets a snag and the day appears to be a victory until the seismic force of an earthquake creates a rift beneath him. Uncovering an underwater lake, trapped from humanity for millions of years, a whirlpool begins to spin and suck in his boat. But the threat of sinking, his attempts to start the engine futile, isn’t the worst of his troubles as we swim through the first-person vantage of fishes escaping their prison. We know what they are due to the name of the flick, but poor Dreyfus is completely taken by surprise as his carcass is fed upon, a bloody mess of bones remaining for identification.

The monsters are unleashed and they are hungry for dinner. Lucky for them it’s Spring Break and all the sexy co-eds are ready to frolic in the lake in skimpy bikinis, their gyrations and douchebaggery begging to be wiped from their faces with a piranha tooth to the neck. This isn’t a local beach where Chief Brody can simply sound the alarm and have people actually listen; no, Sheriff Julie Forester’s (Elisabeth Shue) task is much harder. Not only are the kids using her lake as their latest orgy location, but a couple camera crews have also arrived to prey upon the repressed girls with low self-esteem and only a couple drinks away from raising their tops and immortalizing themselves as blurred chests on late night television commercials. Even if she becomes aware of the killer fish infestation, no one is going to heed her warnings; they’ll simply laugh, make jokes, hit on her own pretty face, and carry on with their business. No pack of predators in a horror film has ever had as willing a meal as what’s put forth here.

And dinnertime is the fun part. Much of the initial blood spurts are cheesy—like a girl sitting on an innertube, her exposed butt beckoning for a bite—but the aftermath of carnage is unquestionably pretty awesome. A couple deaths have adequate payoff, including my favorite in a scalping by boat propeller, but the sheer sight of bloodied and limbless bodies washing ashore cannot be equaled. Some people try and help only to accidentally pull women apart at the waist, others let fear takeover and hijack a speedboat to slice and dice as they panic to safety. Ving Rhames collects his paycheck by utilizing a detached engine as chainsaw weaponry, TV veterans Dina Meyer and Ricardo Chavira serve as bait, and even genre maestro Eli Roth makes an appearance in order to professionally squirt big bosomed women with water and die in hilarious fashion. A good portion will die, some in more spectacular fashion than others, so it’s really no spoiler to say who remains and who is eaten. Some scream, some gurgle, and even more have last words, “wet t-shirt … wet t-shirt”.

This is exactly what audiences want, an overload of the senses that frighten and turn-on. As far as guys watching goes, there is plenty to see. Whether unknown faces ignored because breasts are hanging or our pornstar leads shooting a piece for Jerry O’Connell’s Derrick Jones, there aren’t many instances without a fully nude woman in frame. For one extended scene of Kelly Brook and Riley Steele swimming in the buff, floating past one another with the gentlest of touches, we are even treated with Léo Delibes’s Lakmé. The use of such well-known orchestral sounds only makes the scene that much more absurd, their sexual appeal on the film’s lead-by-default Steven R. McQueen merely a secondary motive. He has Jessica Szohr’s innocent love interest to pine over anyway—the twirling, taut bodies of Brook and Steele are for our benefit. That’s just the way it is girls; the guys get the goods and you get little for yourself with bare chests coming from periphery background pawns. And sorry, I doubt the much-ballyhooed floating penis is any sorts of appealing.

I regret missing it in theatres to bask in its three-dimensionality, despite ultimately finding it to be a schlocky mess I could have done without. The beasts are rendered way south of flawless, so their cartoony feel comes through much more than desired without the dimness from glasses and the depth of field muddying such imperfections at the multiplex. I can’t quite rail against something meant to be outlandish and off-the-wall obscene since it’s a harmless waste of 88-minutes. The only person who should be mad is Adam Scott for cashing in only to get the most serious role in the film. Scott has the chops for broad comedy, look at “Party Down” and Step Brothers for evidence, so to see him be the levelheaded hero is disappointing. O’Connell does his best to make up for it with his obnoxious sex-crazed porn auteur, but it’s too bad he didn’t let his ambivalence towards anything but sex and cash stay at the surface towards the end. I guess watching a couple of little kids get gobbled up is where the line for decency is drawn.

[1] Jerry O’Connell stars in Alexandre Aja’s PIRANHA 3D. Photo by: Courtesy of Gene Page / Dimension Films, 2010. Copyright © The Weinstein Company
[2] Ving Rhames stars in Alexandre Aja’s PIRANHA 3D. Photo by: Courtesy of Gene Page / Dimension Films, 2010. Copyright © The Weinstein Company

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