Thursday, September 16, 2010

Piranha Bites.


Release: 08.20.10
Rated R
1 hour, 28 minutes

Second Run Seats

Sheriff Julie Forester (Elisabeth Shue, Hollow Man) was prepared for the drunken debauchery that floods Lake Victoria over Spring Break. She hadn't expected the universe to send her a big 'ol double-barreled 'Fuck You!' by dumping schools of prehistoric, man-eating fish into the mix. To make matters worse, her teenage son, Jake (Steven R. McQueen), shrugs off watching his younger siblings to protect his not-girlfriend, Kelly (Jessica Szohr) and babysit porn producer Derrick Jones (Jerry O'Connell, Scream 2) and his colleagues. Partying, poon, and piranha...sounds like the recipe for a perfect B-movie cocktail.

Thanks to the buzz, I went into Piranha stoked for some cheesy, B-movie fun. I have to ask, what the fuck are they talking about? This was only passably watchable, even by B-movie standards. I lose a little more respect for director Alexandre Aja (High Tension) with each new project. Aja's attempt to capture the camp vibe of 80s horror succeeds in parts, but fails on the whole.

The opening sequence with Richard Dreyfuss (Jaws) had CGI effects worse than many a low-budget television movie. There's a thin line between unmistakably lame and passable cheese, and this established the tone as the former. Later CGI effects are equally weak; the underwater piranha attacks are indiscernible blurs of fish and swirls of blood. To the contrary, the makeup and props nail the 80s camp right down to the off-red coloration of the dangling bits of flesh.

Overall, the acting isn't great, and I can only assume it wasn't meant to be. As annoying as it was, I totally got O'Connell's over-the-top, obnoxious portrayal. Shue was great, but her character was given little to do. Ving Rhames (Dawn of the Dead) had barely any screentime; same goes for Christopher Lloyd (Clue) and Dina Meyer (Saw IV). The lack of development would have been excusable had the movie kept a quick, tense pace. Instead, it dragged along filling the time with stranded children, an uptight teen and underwater lesbians.

Dirty Undies
Since I'm on the subject of lesbians, let's discuss the Wild Wild Girls, Danni and Crystal. Danni (Kelly Brook, The Italian Job) is really hot, really naked, and has a surprisingly developed character. You can expect to see a lot more of her next year. Crystal is portrayed by porn star Riley Steele. Steele is given little to say or do aside from be naked. I recognized one other porn star, but I'm sure I missed a couple. Where Aja failed in storytelling, he overcompensates with nudity. I'm not one to complain about an abundance of boobs and butts, or even a quick female full frontal or some man meat, but some of these scenes take up valuable real estate in the story. Besides, if I want to watch sexy porn stars strut around naked, I'll hit the internets (and I suggest you do the same).

As I mentioned earlier, the gory effects were on point. I loved the chunks missing from people's backs and body parts. In fact, the one thing Aja films perfectly is the unbridled mayhem that ensues when the piranhas violently attack the Spring Break congregation. He captures all the varying archetypes; the noble Samaritan, the sacrificial lambs, the every-man-for-himself. The tense vibe from that extensive sequence should have been present throughout Piranha.

The Money Shot
I can always tell a bad movie from the pacing. When a film that clocks in under ninety minutes feels like I've been seated for over two hours, there's a fucking problem. Piranha has its moments, but those moments never add up to a film worth watching. I'm just glad I didn't pay the extra cash to see it in 3D; I was already pissed enough for paying to see this in the first place.

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