In a day and age where 3-D movie making is out of control, one of the only films that truly deserved the technology was Dimension Films’ Piranha 3D. The 80’s homage deserved an 80’s-esque gimmick that would put blood, guts, and plenty of boobs in your face. While the Alex Aja-directed remake is definitely a bloody good time, the post-converted 3-D technology looks like sh*t, contrary to what anybody else says.
Normally, I would make a quick statement about the 3-D and then suggest you see it in 2-D, but the problem with Piranha is that it’s being sold as this epic 3-D throwback to the 80’s. Aja jams nudity, piranha, eyeballs, and even boat motors, in your face – only they never penetrate the screen. Why? Because when you post-convert a movie it adds depth, not dimensions. The film is loaded with great gags, only there are no real payoffs as you just kind of stare at the floating eyeball and go, “well, that’s cool.” The most shocking part about it is that the piranha themselves were done in CG, therefore they should have easily been floating beyond the screen and biting my face off. Nope.
Getting the 3-D out of the way, Piranha is actually a pretty fun movie. It captures the spirit of the original in various ways, but most notably the way Aja shoots the piranha attacks. Much like Joe Dante’s 1978 film of the same name, when the teens are getting eaten alive, we see them thrashing around, and get close-up underwater shots of the fish shaking and biting into their skin. The sole difference is that the 2010 version features chunks of flesh being torn off, and the fish being CG instead of puppets. But before you freak, the CG effects work is beautifully done. The fish look hyper-real, and f*cking scary. Aja even opted to use as much practical effects work as he possibly could, a feat that’s commendable on so many levels. The epic attack sequence – where hundreds of douche bag partiers are ravaged alive – is hands down one of the goriest scenes ever caught on film. The water is completely red as we see kids climbing onto boats, rafts, and running to shore, all with chunks of flesh missing from all of their bodies. Some people are dragged to safety – only they’ve had their arms or legs chewed straight down to the bone (in one scene, one of the main characters hilariously exclaims, “It ate my penis!”).
Speaking of humor, the cast is pretty incredible (sans jackass Steven McQueen, the film’s Achilles’ heel). Christopher Lloyd, who plays a scientist named Dr. Goodman, hilariously acts as if he’s Doc Brown from Back to the Future, while Richard Dreyfuss cameos as Matt Boyd (aka Matt Hooper) from Jaws (he drinks Amity beer, and the Jaws song plays on the radio). Jerry O’Connell had me cracking up as the “Wild Wild Girls” owner, a narcissistic, egotistical, womanizing dirtbag with some serious game. Unfortunately, he sidekick Andrew, played by the brilliant Paul Scheer, is incredibly underused. Kelly Brook is going to give Megan Fox a run for her money as one of the hottest women alive. If you can shake her off your mind for a split second, Piranha runs rampant with the nudity, flashing more than enough T+A your way.
As for the plot, going in I knew it was going to be a mind-numbing experience. The plan: get popcorn, get a drink, turn brain off, and then enjoy… and I did. Piranha is quite fun, especially in the thick of it. It’s unfortunate, though, that the third act lacks a sense of urgency. While Kelly (Jessica Szohr) is trapped inside a sinking boat, a whole bunch of obnoxious nonsense occurs (including way too much talking). Julie Forester (Elisabeth Shue) and Novak (Adam Scott) come to the rescue and throw a rope for Jake Forester (McQueen) to anchor to the sinking ship. Instead of everyone rushing over to safety, Julie crawls all the way to the sinking ship, has a long-winded conversation, attempts (and fails) to save Kelly, before climbing back with two of her kids, and Danni (Brook), all at the SAME F*CKING TIME. This weighs down the anchor and a whole lot of piranha biting occurs. The entire sequence is absolutely moronic, boring and frustrating. But again, let’s check the list: popcorn, soda, brain on “off”. Ok, it gets a pass… but still, it could have been more exciting.
In retrospect, one of the only things that really could have made Piranha an epic, off-the-wall summer blast would have been to do 3-D correctly (especially because I would have then been able to pretend slap the floating face of sh*tty actor Steven McQueen). Delivering all sorts of bloody goodness, Piranha is Alex Aja’s best film since High Tension. If you can get past the flaws scattered throughout, it’s a great flick to watch with a bunch of your friends on one of the final weekends of the summer. It’s damn fun, and off the hook bloody. If anything, the spring break summer massacre sequence will go down in infamy as one of the most awesome and insane horror moments of all time.
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