CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: PIRANHA 3DD (2012)
By L.L. Soares
(THE SCENE: A huge outdoor swimming pool. L.L. SOARES and MICHAEL ARRUDA are dressed in shorts and Hawaiian shirts, carrying giant nets. A distinguished 60-ish woman calls them over)
LADY: Oh pool boys! Pool boys!
LS: Yeah, toots.
LADY: Please be extra diligent about cleaning the pool today. I could have sworn I saw some fish swimming around in there. I have no idea where they could have come from.
MA: Probably the water pipes. We’ll check it out.
LS: Yeah, sure. But how’s about some lemonade first? Or a beer? It’s hot out here.
LADY: Beer? I don’t pay you boys to drink on the job. Now get to work. When that pool water is crystal clear, then we can discuss a glass of lemonade. Maybe.
(LADY walks back into her house. LS gives her the finger)
MA: Now, now. Don’t be so rude. We need this job.
LS: I wish we could make some money from this movie review gig.
MA: Stop complaining and let’s go see about those fish she was talking about.
(They go over to the pool and look down. There are a few large fish swimming around)
LS: If I didn’t know better, I’d say those are prehistoric, man-eating piranhas.
MA: Prehistoric monster fish? What are you talking about? You heard what that lady said about drinking on the job.
LS (takes out a flask): I won’t tell if you don’t. Want some?
MA: No, we’ve got a movie to review, on top of a pool cleaning.
LS (tips his head back and takes a gulp): Your loss.
(LADY screams from her house)
LADY: Are you drinking there, pool boy?
LS: No, no, of course not.
(LS hurriedly puts his flask away in his shorts and picks up his net, knocking MA into the pool in the process)
MA: Hey, you didn’t have to push me in!
LS: It was an accident. While you’re down there, get a good look at those fish for me, and tell me what they are.
(The fish swarm around MA and eat him alive. MA screams)
LS: Hey, what’s all the commotion about?
(MA pops up from beneath the water, now a SKELETON wearing shorts and a Hawaiian shirt)
LS: I told you they were piranhas! Now I guess I have to do this movie review solo.
MA SKELETON: I have a bone to pick with you!
LS: Aw, shut your trap. I have to start the review.
This week’s movie is PIRANHA 3DD (2012), which many of you know is the sequel to PIRANHA 3D (2010). The first movie was itself sort of a remake of a 1978 exploitation flick directed by Joe Dante. Are you confused yet?
Anyway, the 2010 movie was directed by Alexandre Aja, a director I like. Aja is also the guy responsible for stuff like 2003’s HIGH TENSION and the 2006 remake of THE HILLS HAVE EYES. I thought his movie, PIRANHA 3D, was a lot of fun. Everyone in it played things pretty straight, it had pretty girls in bikinis (and plenty of nudity as well), and the last third of the movie was a literal bloodbath. Easily one of the bloodiest moves I’d seen in a theater in a long time. Which isn’t a bad thing.
Well, for some reason, Alexandre Aja did not want to make PIRANHA 3DD….
….So along comes John Gulager, whose career I’ve been watching since he was on the third (and last) season of the TV series “Project Greenlight” (2005), where unknowns get to make a movie. The result of that show was Gulager’s first feature film as director, an enjoyable little horror romp called FEAST (2005). It got a limited theatrical release. He also directed FEAST’s two sequels, which went straight to video. Now, he finally gets another shot at a theatrical film with PIRANHA 3DD. However, this one just got a limited release as well, and most people are probably going to be seeing it on Netflix or cable TV. I saw it on cable OnDemand myself (and you might just be able to catch it there now if you want to check it out).
PIRANHA 3DD takes place a year after the events of the previous movie. The popular Spring Break destination of Lake Victoria (the location of the PIRANHA 3D) has since closed down and become a ghost town. People speculate that the horrific events of that tragedy, caused by the resurgence of prehistoric monster piranha fish that were somehow awakened from an underwater lake, could happen again. So this time we go to Cross Lake in Merkin County, Arizona (if you know what a merkin is, then you know right off the bat that this movie doesn’t take itself too seriously).
In the previous movie, the opening scene featured Richard Dreyfus from the shark classic that started the whole killer fish craze, JAWS (1975), in a goofy scene that parodied his character Hooper from that movie. To show that PIRANHA 3DD has a slightly smaller budget, this time the funny cameo in the opening scene features a crazy-looking (is there any other way?) Gary Busey, as well as Clu Gulager (an actor with a long career, who just happens to also be the father of director John Gulager) as a couple of idiots walking around in a lake that is suddenly infested with man-eating fish.
Then we get to the story proper. This time, a well-digging machine digs down to another underground lake festering with prehistoric killer fish. The machine belongs to Chet (David Koechner, who you’d recognize from movies like ANCHORMAN (2004) and the American version of the TV series “The Office”), who is the proprietor of THE BIG WET, a gigantic water park that is just about to reopen after a complete overhaul (including the hiring of strippers as life guards, among other “naughty” improvements). The park is also partly owned by marine biology grad student, Maddy (Danielle Panabaker, who was previously in the 2009 remake of FRIDAY THE 13TH, and the 2010 remake of THE CRAZIES). Maddy is home for the summer after the death of her mother, and sleazy Chet is her stepfather. She planned to help him with the park during her visit, but is horrified to see what he’s done to the place, including the installation of an all-nude “Adult Pool” in the back, for “special” customers.
When one of Maddy’s friends, Ashley (Megan Tandy) and her boyfriend get eaten up by piranhas, Maddy, being the highly intelligent marine biology student that she is, quickly figures out what’s going on—when a swarm of piranhas almost eat her and her friend Shelby (Katrina Bowden) alive the next day. She goes to see Mr. Goodman (Christopher Lloyd), the piranha expert from the previous movie, who tells them “It’s happening again!” Cue scary music here.
The rest of the movie is a race against time to stop the killer fish before they make chum out of the water park on its opening day! Do they save the day? What do you think? If you saw the previous movie, then you know most of the budget was spent on fake blood, and they gotta use it up!
While not as well made as PIRANHA 3D (mostly due to a much smaller budget, I guess), PIRANHA 3DD has a lot that’s similar to that earlier movie. First off, the new movie was obviously made to be seen on a big screen with 3D glasses (there are several scenes where things are supposed to jump out at you).
There’s also plenty of nudity. Back when I was a kid in the 1970s, when you saw an R-rated movie, it was pretty much guaranteed you’d get to see some nudity. These days, there’s no such guarantee, and frankly, it’s a letdown. An R-rating used to mean something. You had certain expectations. Well, not anymore! So, when a movie like PIRANHA 3DD comes along—despite the cheapo budget—it’s nice to see some old-fashioned naked ladies in this one.
Also like the previous movie, there are scenes where piranhas attack people’s genitals. This time, one goes up inside virginal Shelby while she’s skinny-dipping. When she decides to wants to finally lose her virginity, the unlucky guy who helps her gets a nasty surprise he was NOT expecting. OUCH!
And, yes, also like the previous movie, there is lots and lots of gore, as that water park comes equipped with hot and cold running BLOOD. And no, that’s not a spoiler. If you saw the first one, then you know that’s what’s coming.
Like PIRANHA 3D, the actors for the most part play it straight here, and while not all the acting is good, it’s good enough to keep you watching. I liked Danielle Panabaker as our plucky heroine (along with the movies I mentioned earlier, she’s also been on TV shows like “Grey’s Anatomy,” and more recently on NBC’s “Grimm”). There are also two guys interested in her: one is Kyle, a crooked cop who’s good-looking, but sleazy (Chris Zylka), and Barry (Matt Bush), the nerd who has loved her from afar since 7th grade, and who, of course, doesn’t even know how to swim, even though he works at the water park. And speaking of the water park, there’s also some weird, crazy-looking dude who works there named Big Dave (Adrian Martinez), who does stuff like have sex with the pressurized water pump.
Reprising their roles from the previous movie are Christopher Lloyd (probably best known from the series “Taxi,” from 1978 to 1982, and the BACK TO THE FUTURE movies), as the aforementioned Mr. Goodman, as well as Ving Rhames as the now legless Deputy Fallon, trying to overcome his fear of water by taking a trip to the water park.
And helping to make the big opening day at The Big Wet even bigger, David Hasslehoff plays himself as the surprise celebrity guest star. Hasslehoff actually seems to be having fun here poking fun at himself, and he’s pretty funny in a few scenes.
John Gulager does a decent enough job directing this thing. It’s not a great movie by any stretch of the imagination, and comes up short even compared to the previous PIRANHA flick, but it’s not completely horrendous, and does have some fun moments.
The script by Marcus Dustan and Patrick Melton (who have worked with Gulager since way back on that “Project Greenlight” TV show and FEAST) is serviceable and has enough little inside jokes to keep it interesting. While it is sometimes funny, the actors don’t use that “wink wink” style of overacting that gets on my nerves, which is a plus.
Oh, and stick through the end credits and you’ll see LOTS of outtakes, some of which are actually funny.
Basically, if you liked the first movie, you’ll like this sequel. It’s stupid and fun. But if you hate movies with gratuitous nudity and lots of gore, then stay away. You might be better off going to see THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL instead.
I give it two and a half knives. It’s not great, but I enjoyed it for what it was. And I’m actually sad I didn’t get to see this one in a movie theater.
(MA’s SKELETON rises from the water)
MA: I’m glad I didn’t have to see it. (he submerges again)
(The LADY comes back out, carrying a tray with some glasses of lemonade)
LADY: I see you two have been hard at work.
LS: Well, one of us has.
MA: Where did your friend go?
LS: Probably taking a nap.
LADY: Well, at least you’re a hard worker. Here, please have a glass of lemonade.
LS: Gee thanks, lady.
LADY: So did you figure out what those fish were?
LS: Oh, they’re just some harmless goldfish. Why don’t you look for yourself.
(LADY bends over the pool)
LADY: I don’t see anything.
LS: You’ve got to look closer.
(LADY bends down further, and LS kicks her in the rump, sending her into the pool. The piranhas instantly surround her and devour her in minutes, as she screams)
LS: I think something fishy is going on here. Haw, haw.
(MA’s SKELETON rises up again at the edge of the pool, and he’s drinking a glass of lemonade)
MA: That was a good one. (laughs loudly)
LS: We’ll see you folks next week, here at Cinema Knife Fight!
© Copyright 2012 by L.L. Soares
L.L. Soares gives PIRANHA 3DD ~ two and a half knives!
Michael Arruda sat this one out.