Well consider me sufficiently spoiled and even more desensitized as the “horror” bar, the “skin content” bar, and the “creature feature” bar have all been raised and reset by Alexandre Aja. In his latest film, Piranha 3D has reassessed what it means to go overboard (no boat pun intended) and over the top…and I loved every minute of it. While I have been pretty firm in my stance that 3D is yet another passing fad, this movie is proof positive that it’s probably not going away anytime soon. Piranha 3D carves out a comfortable niche in film where this revived technology can showcase a perfect middle ground between the gimmick 3D films of old and worthwhile 3D entertainment of today (well so far, mainly Avatar). No I’m not suggesting that every future film will be like this, but sometimes a gimmick can be enhanced just enough so the novelty won’t wear off nearly as quickly as expected. In short, Piranha (like The Expendables actually) is everything you thought it would be…only a shitload more in-your-face and fun thanks to those nifty glasses.
Since everyone making this and going to see this knows that in a film like of this nature, believable storyline, character arc, etc have been cast out the window. Smart move as this film is essentially a “creature feature” with heavy hints of Girls Gone Wild and the stupidity of Transformers 2.Yet there is some small semblance of structure that tries to give a passable scientific reason for the existence of the Piranha…but still in a film like this, those efforts efforts are lost on the deaf ears (and eyes) of the audience as they grinned at naked under water swimming and laughed at each attack scene. So we’ll move on.
Now, here’s something I wasn’t expecting; characters you actually felt something for. I was actually impressed they tried to go for some sort of social structure personally. I mean how can rampant violence be anything but bland/matter-of-fact if the characters aren’t made to be likable albeit disposable? With a slew of recognizably semi-famous actors and a cameo from familiar Jaws alum, this movie’s cast was a pretty mixed bunch. Still they were tied to such stereotypical protagonists that you could have cast no-names and gotten the same effect. Ving Rhames and Elisabeth Shue were fine, Jerry O’Connell was hysterical but the tour de force was hearing a Piranha history lesson from Christopher Lloyd as he did his best to channel his Doc Brown (which he did beautifully). To me, it was his role which was the most enjoyable and the audience in my theater seemed to think the same way too. I so wanted to scream out “Great Scott” or “1.21 Jigawatts” every time he overacted on camera.
I’m just a little shocked that my impression of the film keeps increasing the more I write this, but as far as being an homage to the old B-movie shockers of the 70’s this was surprisingly well crafted. The film was paced great as there were enough teases and slow reveals early on so nothing was spoiled. The camera was a good distance away from the action to be able to take in everything (which lessened the suspense a bit) and allowed your eyes to soak in all the overwhelming carnage. Also the editing was crisp and on the money. With each cut staying on the action just long enough to get a rise out of the audience but short enough so you didn’t dwell on just one victim.
Knowing full well how to take advantage of showpiece 3D scenes (with more than just a wink and a nod to the audience), Alexandre Aja gave everyone what they were wanting, and I do mean everyone. Horror junkies get a damn smorgasbord of violence, teenagers get treated to more skin than late night Cinemax, and people wanting to enjoy a no-brainer 3D B-movie posing as nothing more than what it is, will laugh their asses off in a film destined to become a guilty pleasure. There is something to be said for the expected, but still creative, ways all the Spring Breakers meet their end (future film makers, take note). Further, it’s that classic instance where you’ll want to look away but can’t, then wish you really had. Enjoyable in a really macabre way but this movie was eye candy and timed perfectly for Summer, even though Summer’s almost over.
So let’s call a spade a spade. This movie will not win any Oscars, despite the comically genius (and fake) campaign for it. However this movie is far more fun than it deserved to be. Liken this to the insane antics of Johnny Knoxville and his buddies in the Jackass series where you’re brain comes to a bout of indecision. The smart part of your brain says, “This is bad. Don’t see it or you’ll loose brain cells“. The fun part of your brain says, “Don’t care, this’ll be a blast. Give me the keys I’m driving“. That’s exactly what happened to me….except the fun part won that bout. I may lose sophistication points across the cineblogging community but God help me, I really really enjoyed myself.