Monday, June 4, 2012

Blogorium Review: Piranha 3DD

 I think I understand where my friends are coming from. You see, I haven't experienced Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance yet, but everybody I've talked to about the sequel to a movie nobody but the Cap'n liked has warned me how boring the film is. How it should be better, should be more gonzo, should be more, well, anything than the inert mass of exposition punctuated with the madness we expected. I mean, you're taking Nicolas Cage as Johnny Blaze / Ghost Rider, building on one of the dumbest movies Marvel's been involved with, and handing that over to the directors of the Crank films. That's a shame, because I was really looking forward to seeing Mega-Acting meets Mega-Filmmaking.

 Piranha 3DD, it turns out, suffers from the same problem of "what the hell happened?" because this movie is, on paper, a can't miss experience. Alexandre Aja's remake of Joe Dante's Piranha was a blood and boob soaked blast of exploitation unleashed on audiences. It was a gleefully perverse movie that managed to sneak in a few characters you were rooting for, even with wafer thin development. It was funny, disgusting, titillating, and juvenile. It also ended with an opening for an even crazier sequel. So two years later, Aja moves on, and the Weinstein brothers hand the directing reigns over to John Gulager, who brings along Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan to write it (with Joel Soisson), reuniting the team that made Feast.

 If you've seen Feast, you know why the idea of them making a sequel to Aja's Piranha sounds like a no-brainer: the film is a relentless, irreverent gorehound's wet dream, and even if the Feast sequels didn't live up to the original, surely they could bring this manic energy to a movie that's basically killer fish going wild on idiotic teenagers. I mean, they took the existing title and immediately turned the sequel into a joke about boobs. Surely they were embracing the schlock and preparing to up the ante.

  So what the hell happened? Piranha 3DD is a film that's dead on arrival, a movie that abandons all of the momentum generated in the Feast films in favor of playing conventional horror / slasher movie for 85% of its screen time. When it isn't moving as slowly as possible to hide the fact that the film is nothing but an elongated climax, 3DD fixates in dragging out cameos or on developing characters that nobody gives a shit about. The editing is horrendous: take, for example, a pointless scene in a hospital that exists in the finished film to go ahead and drop two extraneous characters we've been following since the beginning of the film. After some sloppy exposition about the characters, the deputy indicates he's going to talk to one of them, the scene fades to black, and cuts to a shot underwater, Gulager's go-to transition when he can't figure out how to get from one part of the film to another.

 Piranha 3DD is cobbled together from ideas from the original Piranha (the water park that shouldn't open but does), deleted / unshot scenes from the remake (a van where a couple is making out ends up in the water and piranha eat them before they can escape), and a LOT of filler. The opening of the film uses footage of the Lake Victoria party from the last film with an off-screen newscaster informing us that anything we thought we might see based on the end of Piranha 3D wasn't going to happen. Instead we cut away to Arizona, where Gary Busey and Clu Gulager are wading through a creek to find a dead cow that farts piranha eggs out. Now, I've seen Feast 2 and 3, so I know that Gulager is partial to flatulence in horror films, but it immediately removes the tension of their (inevitable) piranha-based demise. If it was meant to echo Richard Dreyfuss being gobbled up after a prehistoric cave unleashes the beasties, it failed. Instead, we get Gary Busey biting the head off of a baby piranha, spitting it into the air, and falling back into the water.

 But hey, we came for the 3DD's, right? With a title like that, surely we're going to get even more on the "titties" front! Well, if you only watch the beginning and the ending of the movie (the parts in Big Wet, the water park), then yeah, you'll get some nudity. Not a lot, mind you, because the gratudity is limited to the "Adult Pool" part of the park, which turns out to be a lot less integral to the film than you're led to believe when Chet (David Koechner) gives step-daughter Maddy (Danielle Panabaker) the tour. She objects, but he has a controlling stake and Deputy Kyle (Chris Zylka) keeping things running smoothly. Also, he's pumping water in from a prehistoric lake beneath the park.

 So is there anything worth recommending in Piranha 3DD? Well, in theory some of the gore setpieces would be worth checking out. For example, while skinny dipping, virgin Shelby (Katrina Bowden) has a baby piranha swim up her hooha, and she's so afraid that she's dying that she asks Josh (Jean-Luc Bilodeau) to deflower her, only to have the piranha swim out of her intestines(?*) and onto his dick. It should be a moment of madness, but the combination of bland direction, shoddy editing, and Bilodeau's acting make the ensuing self-castration more ho-hum than it should be.

There's a similar set up with a character named Big Dave (Adrian Martinez) who likes to have sex with the water pump valves in the water park, but instead of paying off that setup, a piranha just swims into his asscrack until nebbish hero Barry (Matt Bush) pulls it out. Barry and Maddy are the heroes, by the way, and Maddy is a marine biologist. You don't know this by anything she does, really, but because another character says "you're a marine biologist, right?" or something to that effect.

 If nothing else, you can have a little bit of fun with the cameos in Piranha 3DD, however superfluous they may be. Christopher Lloyd is amusing in a brief, if pointless, visit to the abandoned Lake Victoria, although it's really just to set up the end of the film, which borrows a visual gag from Dante's piranha (a walking fish) that doesn't amount to much in this film. Faring better are Ving Rhames and Paul Scheer, both returning from Piranha as survivors with a fear of water who arrive at Big Wet on the worst possible day. The joke about Rhames and his hatred of "punk ass water" goes on too long, but the payoff of what he did with his "legs" makes up for it. David Hasselhoff appears as himself and is good for a chuckle (a moment with a kid who has no idea who he is and the actor rattling off just about anything you'd remember him from) but Gulager is far more enamored with the Baywatch jokes than I was. There's a LOT of the "Hoff" during the credits sequence, which is a seven minute blooper reel with titles playing in between, and a little bit goes a long way.

 I wish I could recommend Piranha 3DD, but despite all of the schlocky elements you think you're in for, the movie is just too boring to sustain a few good moments. For an 83 minute film, it feels twice that long and I found myself losing interest well before Big Wet opened. Not only is it not the movie it could have been, it's not even interesting enough to qualify as a shitty sequel to a exploitation film. There's no fun to be had in Piranha 3DD (or many DDs), and since it's not playing theatrically anywhere near here (the film is available on VOD), you're not even going to be able to see it in 3D. Ultimately, you're better off putting on Dante's Piranha or Aja's Piranha 3D and having fun with this kind of movie - you won't find any with this film.

 * I know it should be in her uterus, but watching the "sex" scene, it sure looks like it's swimming through her intestines on the way to his johnson.

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