Saturday, January 8, 2011

Mega Piranha

I don't usually review made-for-TV movies, but Mega Piranha was just too tempting for me to pass up.  This movie has a lot going against it, even before the opening credits are over.  First off, it is a SyFy movie; if you can't trust a network to spell their name right, what chance do their movies have of being good?  Second, the title is just in all capital letters, no special font, no Photoshop, nothing.  Look guys, I know that the big "draw" for this movie is the fact that 80s pop star Tiffany is co-starring, but could we try to pretend this is an actual film?  No?  Okay, sure, I can respect that.

Mega Piranha opens with a fat American frump on a boat with a Latino businessman and a bunch of dancing bikini babes.  Good job, Mega Piranha, you drew me in --- why is the American unhappy to see bikini babes?  It doesn't matter.  Moments after this movie grabs you, it reels you in (See what I'm doing?  Fish metaphors!) with the cameraman going into epileptic shock, so I guess this is going to be like Cloverfield or Blair Witch, with the cameraman as an actual character camera/boat shaking violently because it is being attacked.  By what?  Bubbles!  I mean, piranhas!  But these are clearly not normal piranhas, because they eat the boat and people without provocation.  If only we had a term to describe these new piranhas.  Massive Piranhas?  Burly Piranhas?  Optimus Piranhas?  I'm getting closer, I can feel it...
"Have I ever mentioned my dream to have a fish species named after me?"

Do you want to know the plot to Mega Piranha?  Damn right you do.  It seems that a group of gifted American scientists, led by Sarah (Tiffany), have been conducting experiments on Venezuelan fish to make them more "robust."  I assume that the goal is to make bigger fish that have more meat to eat, but experimenting in a river seems like a very bad idea to me.  Of course, I'm not a washed-up pop singer scientist.  Since these experiments are a fantastic idea, Sarah and her assistants decided to modify the local piranha species; this is like the point in Deep Blue Sea where Sam Jackson explains that they were enlarging the shark's brain and it had the "unintended" side effect of making it smarter.  Movie scientists are smart.  Well, the Mega Piranhas break out of their containment area and enter a tributary to the Orinoco River, the largest river in Venezuela.  Now, I would have probably kept the fish in a fish tank while experimenting with them, but in Venezuela, you put your godless abominations in busy tributary rivers; it's not wrong, it's just a difference in culture.  The Megas are growing exponentially and are hermaphroditic, so they don't even need to slow down to find a mate; now, they're the size of your shoe, but in a day, they will be the size of rhinoceroses, and the day after that whales, and the week after that they will be bigger than Antoine Dodson.

Luckily, America is here to clean up Venezuela's mess.  Sure, Americans caused it, but...shut up.  Special Agent Jason Fitch (Paul Logan) is sent to investigate the death of the party-unfriendly American from the beginning of the movie, and make sure it's not an assassination.  Fitch is reporting directly to Bob Grady (Barry Williams), a government man who is often implied to be in Washington, thanks to numerous B-roll shots of DC landmarks, but is never actually seen in a government building.  Fitch checks with the local Venezuelan military guy, Colonel Diaz, who insists that the boat sank from an attack that he is happy to avenge.  After Fitch does some research, sees the chewed up boat bits, and has an incoherent conversation with Sarah, he returns to Diaz and asks about the possibility of this being an animal attack.  Diaz scoffs, correctly deducing that Fitch has been speaking to that "crazy American scientist."  Well, she's stuck working in Venezuela and opted to make piranhas deadlier, so that's probably an accurate description.  Well, one thing leads to another and Fitch tries to help the scientists keep the Megas out of the Orinoco; and when that fails, the ocean; and when that fails, Florida.  This ticks off Colonel Diaz, who tries to kill the stupid Americans.  Yes, it sounds like Fitch and Sarah have their hands full with Diaz and the Megas, but poor Bob Grady has to do something vaguely defined to prevent World War III!  With Venezuela?  Is that right?

Oh, man, is this movie exactly what you think it is.  Do you want to know how bad this movie is?  My knowledge of cars stops at the color, and even I could spot different car models being used in establishing shots.  The camera work is awful (why does the camera seem to bob on land?), the script is terrible, the plot is ridiculous, and the special effects would feel at home on the Turbo Grafx 16:
An actual screenshot from Mega Piranha

Archival news footage from Venezuela

That's okay, though.  They look awesome when compared to some of the sets and on-location shots in this movie.  The fact that Bob Grady is always shown outdoors, allegedly in Washington DC, but never within camera range of any landmarks is amusing enough (especially since there are several fast cuts to monuments), but my favorite has to be the scene where the American scientists are running for their lives along the river bank and find themselves surrounded by birch trees, which are not found in South America.  Even the film's extras are all wrong.  When the Navy uses a nuclear submarine to nuke the Megas (don't worry, that obviously doesn't kill them), a few of the Navy guys have long hair; how hard is it to cast a dude with a crew cut for a non-speaking role?

I would like to praise the acting and directing, but I don't think I can without giggling.  I will give Tiffany and Barry Williams credit for trying and not being the worst things about this movie.  One question about your character, Barry...if you're having phone conversations about very hush-hush secret missions in foreign nations, why do you always use the speakerphone and speak outside?  You can add your response in the comments.  Paul Logan, though, is a revelation.  I do not think I have ever seen acting worse than this.  Well, that's a bold statement that ignores the work of Arch Hall, Jr., but it's got to be darn close to the truth.  As for writer/director Eric Forsberg...well, he has now written and directed both Mega Piranha and Snakes on a Train, and no one can (or would want to) take that away from him.

Now, this movie may sound awful, but it is actually AMAZING.  Yes, technically, this movie is --- at best --- a 1.5/10, but the magic of this movie is not found in what it does right, but what it does poorly...which is everything.  This might be the most obviously inept movie I have ever seen, but it also tries its hardest to be entertaining; hardly a scene goes by without several camera angles and running/flying/exploding.  All the dialogue is deadly serious, and a good portion of it is hilariously bad.  I was expecting to entertain myself by ridiculing this movie (and I did), but the fact of the matter is that I laughed harder at this movie than I did any comedy I have seen in the past year (well, maybe not Zombieland).  As bad as this movie is, I unexpectedly enjoyed the hell out of it.  You can't ask for anything more than that, right?

By the way, I didn't mention some of the best parts of the movie in my synopsis.  Here are some hints: growling fish, kamikaze piranha, hotels as fish food, and possibly the least likely wrap-it-up-in-a-tidy-bow ending ever.  Enjoy.

From a strictly rational point of view, I have to give Mega Piranha

But who says I have to be rational?  In Lefty Gold terms, this movie is flawless and cannot be recommended more.

And, just because this movie reminded me of one of my all-time favorite cartoons, here's a fake movie poster for your enjoyment, brought to you by Grizzlebee's.  You'll wish you had less fun!

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