When I heard that John Gulager of Feast
had been hired to direct the sequel to Alexandre Aja's Piranha 3D
, I was wary, but I thought, "Hey, I liked Feast
, let's give this guy a chance!" Of course, my mistake was forgetting that he also directed Feast 2
and Feast 3
. My bad.
In spite of what seemed like a fairly simple formula, the job of replicating Piranha 3D
's success was not an easy one. Aja managed to take a property that no one had any real hopes for and turn it into one of the biggest surprises of that summer. The way he did it was by embracing everything that made '80s-'90s splatstick great. He channeled the spirits of the great pre-Lord of the Rings
Peter Jackson and pre-Spider-Man
Sam Raimi and put on the screen exactly what we wanted to see: crazy killer fish, tits, and a whole lot of blood, and it worked! There was something incredibly fun about Piranha 3D
that has just been lost in the translation.
The new film opens with an odd voiceover/news report that explains how the events of the previous film are in the past and the fish are now extinct. We soon learn that this is obviously not true, and that they've become confused in their journey back to the spawning ground and ended up in a water park, The Big Wet, about to be opened by a goofy sleazeball (David Koechner) played with a fraction of the creepiness of the first film's Jerry O'Connell. In true Jaws rip-off fashion, Koechner's Chet refuses to shut down the park and mayhem ensues, except this time around, all of the glee of the remarkable attack set piece from Piranha 3D
is lost, and we don't really care about anyone or anything happening on screen.
For once, it isn't really the script that's the problem. There's nothing offensively awful about the screenwriting, it's the editing, casting, acting, FX, and just about everything else that drives this one into the dirt. I'm not going to complain about plot holes or logic with this film, I truly intended to enjoy it for what it was. I'm not going to complain about the ridiculousness of the situation. When start a film, I enter into a pact with the film to go wherever it takes me, as long as it holds my interest. This film made that extremely hard, and it's not that I'm losing my patience, it's that I never cared about anything happening on screen.
Every single moment of on screen action is in the service of a gag. The film has no heart. I can almost go along with that, but in this case, the gags rarely pay off. The build-up is intolerably slow and transparent, and the pay-off is weak and poorly executed. The FX work is extremely shoddy, especially in comparison to Aja's absolute masterpiece that rivals any gore set piece in cinema history. The fish all look as fake as the characters feel. Attempting to build a story around two solid characters and then surrounding them with buffoons is a recipe for disaster.
If there is an analogy between the two films that most succinctly and vividly elucidates the most basic difference it is that between the brief appearance of porn star Gianna Michaels in the first one, and random slow-mo bouncing boob-job girl from the trailer of this film. The first film, felt fun in an organic way, it was built by someone who loved these films, and is therefore an all-natural treat of an experience that is soft in all the right places and still knows how to deliver the goods when it counts. Piranha 3DD
is a calculated cash-in, designed not for fun, but for profit, that saw a successful film and augmented its formula to the point where the story and its elements are hard, plastic, and not much fun to play with.
When even the appearance of Ving Rhames with shotgun legs is no fun, perhaps it's time to hang 'em up.
As an aside, I watched this film for review at Amazon VOD, which was atrocious. I paid the extra dollar for HD, and never in the film's excruciatingly long eighty minutes did I get an HD image. I frequently watch HD streams from Hulu and Netflix via my Roku, so it wasn't a problem with my connection. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), this is the only way most people will get to see the film before home video, as Dimension pulled most of the screens in the last week before the release date. Make of that what you will.