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Piranha 3D (Blu-ray Review)

24 Jan, 2011 By: Mike Clark

Sony Pictures
Box Office $25 million
$28.95 DVD, $34.95 Blu-ray, $39.95 3D Blu-ray
Rated ‘R’ for sequences of strong bloody horror violence and gore, graphic nudity, sexual content, language and some drug use.
Stars Elisabeth Shue, Adam Scott, Jerry O’Connell, Ving Rhames, Steven R. McQueen, Jessica Szohr, Kelly Brook.

There was actually a brief two or three week period during last summer’s multiplex dog days when this sexed-up remake of 1978’s Joe Dante/Roger Corman/John Sayles nibbler managed to wangle the some of the best reviews around compared to what was passing for its mainstream competition. And in terms of how today’s sequels and remakes are rushed into production — you can just hear some studio suit saying, “whatever it is, we will have something called Piranha ready to go on 2,500 screens next Aug. 22” — this as-good variation, putting aside the recycling factor, managed to satisfy the task at hand.

Or to put it another way — if you’re in the market for a movie where topless bimbos on spring break (from what, pray tell?) gyrate with such zest that their exposed breasts make discomfortingly obvious piranha targets, this one is on the higher end of crowd pleasers for that specialty demographic.

The director is Frenchman Alexandre Aja (also of 2006’s The Hills Have Eyes remake), who was born the year the original Piranha was released. On the copiously detailed DVD/Blu-ray extras, he notes that the zeal he brought to the project was at least partly due to the fact that spring break is a concept alien to Europeans and thus was to him (my word, not his) exotic. Credit him, then, for coming up with either a logical or illogical extension of Where the Boys Are (try “in their gullets along with some girls”).

Elisabeth Shue plays the sheriff in an Arizona lake-resort burg who rarely has to do anything more strenuous than use a TASER on DWI males who then compound their transgressions by trying to hit on her. But one week a year, and this is it, things get really crazy in town. Accordingly, Shue has just asked her teenaged son (played by Steven R. McQueen, real-life grandson of “The Man”) to look after his two much younger siblings while she’s out policing hormones. One of these kids is a screenwriter’s precocious contrivance: a wily financial negotiator who is also apparently preoccupied with the local party girls’ jumbo breasts, given the degree to which allusions to them pepper her conversation. It’s a safe bet that this fast-growing tyke wouldn’t be too interested in the new Lassie DVD 4-pack that Turner Classic Movies and Warner Entertainment are about to issue.

The movie’s first victim is a grizzled beer-drinking fisherman played by Richard Dreyfuss — a good Jaws in-joke before the cause/effect arrival of an investigative scientific team whose ultimate fate in an underwater cave suggests an old Jacques Cousteau special gone terribly wrong. Then, there’s the resident town slug played by Jerry O’Connell, who’s transparently taking off on that notorious friend of the slammer: Girls Gone Wild founder Joe Francis. O’Connell’s calling in life is to get fun-in-the-sun babes to take off their bikinis so that he can videotape them having tequila licked off their midriffs or swimming with limbs entangled in nude water ballets – in other words, the stuff that only happened off-screen in Elvis’s beach pictures. About five seconds into O’Connell’s screen intro, we know it’s automatic that he’ll end up as a Tastee-treat, even if there’s one key part of his anatomy that isn’t so tasty for the piranha (the movie’s biggest laugh).

Oblivious to the coming mayhem, McQueen predictably disobeys mom so that he can play — bribing his brother and sister into going home, which, of course, they don’t. As a result of this and some other contrivances, most of the movie’s principals — or at least the principals who are left — end up on a stranded sinking boat surrounded by creatures not named Flipper. The suspense set pieces here and elsewhere aren’t without a few jolts — and, in fact, the movie has a little of everything, as you can see by reading the specifics of its ‘R’-rating designation, which are longer than some novellas. What Piranha doesn’t have is any characters (Shue’s probably excepted) bound to be ordering or asking for a Kindle anytime soon. Do not look for any future captains of industry here or even a PFC.

In terms of full disclosure, Sony did not send the 3D version for review. So I can’t say with assurance whether any of the bimbo “innies” turn into “outies” if you put on the glasses or how it affects the color quality (colors on the standard Blu-ray are borderline splotchy but not seriously so). But even the standard version hasn’t been topped too recently for what it is (three words that need emphasis) — and possibly not since 1997’s Anaconda. Which, yes, I did like (talk about full disclosure) for the snake’s Jon Voight regurgitation and the tough-to-beat brainstorm scene that finds a way to tie up Jennifer Lopez and Ice Cube together.

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