It’s really tough to make a stupid fun movie. By purposely being stupid, you run the risk of being so while missing the fun. Movies like Killer Klowns from Outer Space and Snakes on a Plane walked the line perfectly. This week’s Piranha 3D doesn’t. It’s an uneven mix of fun and unpleasantness that I found, at times, kind of revolting.
The story is loosely based on the concept for Steven Spielberg’s Jaws and when I say “loosely based on,” I really mean “completely ripped from.” It takes place at a small area called Lake Victoria where college kids have come to celebrate. After an earthquake somehow caused by a beer bottle unearths a subterranean lake, thousands of piranha emerge and infest the waters. Despite the insistence of the local sheriff Julie Forester (Elisabeth Shue), the lake remains open because it just so happens that this party weekend is the most economically successful period of the area and shutting it down would be devastating.
Piranha 3D is what would happen at MTV’s annual Spring Break bash if piranhas took over. It has the energy of one of those events, showcasing gratuitous amounts of skin and unofficially endorsing alcohol and drug use, only with the nonstop partying ending in a lake of blood and dozens of corpses. Its emulation works, effectively creating an atmosphere most young men, its target audience, will want to be in.
It’s a movie that promises certain things, chiefly among those being fun. Its ambitions go no higher than to be a cheesy, ridiculous B-movie that people can laugh at and, at times, it succeeds. Unfortunately, those ambitions are paralleled with an equal desire to be serious. It tries to have it both ways and stumbles in its approach. Supposedly fun encounters with the piranhas are immediately followed by unnecessary dramatics, including a scene where the partying teenagers are being pulled out of the water, bleeding and suffering while somber music plays in the background.
I use the word “supposedly” because I find it hard to classify what goes on this movie as “fun.” While some kills are clever, like one that has to do with tangled hair in a boat propeller, most are either boring or unpleasant. They’re boring in that there’s only so many ways piranhas can bite somebody and they’re unpleasant because of the excessive gore. The blood and guts teeter on the edge of too much and sometimes spill over.
All of this leads up to the big problem with Piranha 3D: I wasn’t sure whether I was supposed to be amused or be disgusted. Its tone flops more than a fish on dry land. I acknowledge how hard it is to take the movie seriously, but that makes it even worse because it sometimes felt like I was supposed to.
It’s a shame because I was ready to enjoy myself, but I didn’t. I can look past the shoddy production values, campy acting, mediocre CGI and even the ugly 3D up-conversion given the nature of the film, but there’s a certain amount of fun I must have and that level was never met.
Piranha 3D receives 2/5