Friday, October 19, 2012

Piranha 3DD

Since the campy Piranha 3D made over $80 million (!!!) in the box office, it was inevitable that it would spawn a sequel. It's a difficult task to follow up a stupid hit with an inevitably stupider sequel, but the filmmakers got off on the right foot when they named the sequel Piranha 3DD.  That is simply sublime.  I don't think there is a better way to distill what this movie should be about than that: killer fish and big boobs.  Somebody give that title guy a raise!  Truly, this will live out its days with the royalty of movie sequel titles, like Electric Boogaloo and Die Harder.  Here's the thing, though: I didn't really like Piranha 3D.  Sure, it was campy and had some cheap nudity and gore, but it was too aware of its crappiness to for me to truly enjoy laughing at it.  I hate laughing with bad movies --- I want to laugh at them.  What are the odds that Piranha 3DD will be stupid, but still stupid-fun?

I started off liking Piranha 3DD's choices, right off the bat.  Piranha 3D set the stage for the inevitable sequel, but 3DD opts to completely ignore the ending of that movie; in a brilliant move, they acknowledge that some people died in a lake, thanks to some fish, but it's probably unrelated to what's happening in this film.  So, if you were hoping for some tighter continuity in this series, you're absolutely adorable.  And out of luck.  The story kicks off with Maddy (Danielle Panabaker) returning home from college, only to discover that the water park she co-owns with her step-father, Chet (David Koechner), is about to grand open with an all-adult section and a brand new name: "Big Wet."  That's a lot to take in at one time, I know, but try to digest it all.  Yes, a college student co-owns a water park.  Yes, it is creepy that her step-father is setting up a raunchy zone in said water park.  And, following that logic, the lifeguards in the adult section will be strippers.
"And the lifeguards can drop their kids off in the main pool while they're pool stripping!  Genius!"
As the days count down to the grand opening of the park, Maddy and her friends start to notice some strange things happening at the lake that is located near the park.  Luckily, Maddy is a marine biologist and quickly realizes that super-piranhas are entering the lake, somehow.  But that's just the lake.  It couldn't possibly affect the water park, unless it happened to be illegally siphoning water from that lake.
But did...oh, I get it now.

One of the unexpected strengths of Piranha 3D was its surprisingly legit cast.  Piranha 3DD doesn't quite match its prequel in that department.  Danielle Panabaker was fine, I guess, as the character with the closest thing that passes for brains in this movie.I don't know why, but I keep expecting her to have a breakout performance one of these days, despite the fact that she doesn't even stand out in this crap.  Her romantic interests are played by Matt Bush and Chris Zylka; Bush appears to be doing his best impression of a young Seth Green here, while Zylka continues to play teenage jerks.  Both were fine for what their roles called for, but neither was particularly interesting.  Meagan Tandy and Jean-Lu Bilodeau  were only in the film briefly, but they were void of personality.  Paul James Jordan would have been completely forgettable, if not for the scene where he cuts off his penis to keep a piranha from eating him.
I don't know if I would be that calm, sir
David Koechner was his usual bawdy self, and it actually made sense for him to show up in this film.  He wasn't funny, but I kind of hate seeing him in movies, so this matches my opinion of his talents quite well.  I was a little surprised that Ving Rhames reprised his role from the first movie (as did Paul Scheer), but at least his small part had a moderately funny moment. 
...that had already been done in Planet Terror
Gary Busey and Clu Gulager showed up in the introductory scene and were reasonably amusing as idiot rednecks.  Ever since Scream revived the "kill the recognizable actor in the opening scene" film trope, I have enjoyed seeing how different films have embraced the tradition; I'm fairly sure that Clu Gulager is the most obscure horror actor I have seen in a scene like that, but I am definitely not complaining.  It may be nepotism on the part of the director, but it's obscure and fun nepotism.  I will complain about Christopher Lloyd's choice to return, though; for an actor that is as occasionally hilarious as Lloyd, he sure knows how to stoop to the level of whatever movie he's in.  He could have been one of the shining moments of this film, and he definitely was not.  David Hasselhoff was shockingly not terrible playing himself.  I definitely like his work in the Spongebob movie better, but his singing threesome scene was enough to balance out most of his all-too-aware-of-its-campiness part.  When you get right down to it, the only actor I liked in the movie was Katrina Bowden.  Her character was too stupid and sincere for words, but the more I see of her, the more I am impressed by her excellent comedic timing.  Plus, she had the best line in the entire film:

John Gulager directed Piranha 3DD, and it was written by his buddies Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan; the three worked together on all three of the Feast movies.  In case you're unfamiliar with those movies, Melton and Dunstan have also co-written the last four Saw movies, so if anyone knows how to make a stupid movie funny, it's...the guys who write torture porn?  That doesn't sound right.
If only they had this picture to inspire them to greater heights...
I'm not going to bother commenting on normal directorial stuff, like cinematography, editing, or tone, because this movie doesn't care about any of that.  Instead, I'll judge Piranha 3DD on what it obviously values.  It had to be campy, gory, prominently feature large breasts, and, as the sequel to an already unlikely and campy movie, it had to be pretty darn stupid.  If that doesn't sound difficult to you, think of the last movie you watched that was intentionally so-bad-it's-good.  They're rarer beasts than you might think.  So, how did Gulager do?  This movie certainly was campy, but nowhere near as funny as it seemed to think it was. 
Example page from the script: Jiggle, jiggle, jiggle [WAIT FOR APPLAUSE TO DIE DOWN]
Aside from Hasselhoff's narration-singing and bizarre post-credits scene, the only time I laughed was with the whole piranha-in-my-vagina explanation.  That's not a good thing, especially when you consider how many other characters are in this movie.  Instead of being ridiculous, like Piranha 3D, this movie was stupid, and then had the nerve to elbow the audience in the stomach and ask if they "got it."  As for the gore, there definitely was some.  My personal favorite moments included an annoying child's head being eaten, a cow carcass exploding, and (of course) piranhagina (AKA pussanha).
Thank God this didn't start with "This one time, in band camp..."
The rest of the gore was surprisingly tame.  There was a lot of fake blood in the water, but it definitely felt less explicit than the original film, and it sure was a lot less original.  The filmmakers went out of their way to show gratuitous nude shots at the beginning of the film, but I was surprised by how rarely I saw unnecessary nudity as the story wore on.  Wasn't the entire point of making this an "adult" water park to constantly have topless girls splashing in the background of scenes?  It seems like such an obviously exploitative move, and yet it was used so sparingly. 
Why is Botox 'n' Balloon Chest Barbie even in this movie if she's clothed?
How about the plot?  Yes, that was dumb.  I know, I know, the filmmakers had to come up with a way to get piranhas into a water park, and they did it.  I have no problem with whatever stupid justification they needed to get Jason into space piranhas into the water park.  My problem is that the writers felt that they needed to build up to that.  That meant there was less time spent in the novelty location (the water park) and more time spent rehashing the last film in and around a lake.  This is a movie about killer fish in a water park; if I needed a plausible concept, then I wouldn't be watching a movie about killer fish in a water park. 
Correction: a movie about killer fish in a water park that features Gary Busey exploding a cow

When it gets down to brass tacks, Piranha 3DD feels like the poor man's version of Piranha 3D, instead of the bigger and stupider movie that all sequels strive to be.  It wants to be dumb enough to love, that much is clear.  It is just missing the charm, wit, and tongue-in-cheek knowing humor that earned Piranha 3D 3.5 stars (out of 10) from me.  In other words, this movie sucks, even when compared to a movie I didn't like.  The humor is cruder, the tone was more irritating than campy, there were human villains for some reason, and there wasn't enough creative gore or nudity to keep me interested.  It just.  Wasn't.  Fun. 
When 60% of your jokes come from the Hoff, you have a bad script
This isn't just a bad horror movie, it's a bad horror movie when you compare it to bad horror movies.  I almost wish I had given Piranha 3D a better rating, just to illustrate how much worse this sequel is.  How about this: Piranha 3DD made about 10% of Piranha 3D's box office gross.  Ouch.  Comparing it to Piranha 3D isn't even an apples-to-apples argument, because that movie actually achieved its goal of being dumb fun.  This is a lot closer to Shark Night 3D; both movies tried to capitalize on the success of the last Piranha, but couldn't be bothered to be ridiculously over the top.  This was lazy and boring instead of dumb fun. 
"I'll have to scrub for days to get all the shame off me"
On the bright side, this isn't a movie that deserves active hatred, it had a few worthwhile moments, and about fifteen minutes of its runtime was devoted to the end credits/gag reel, so the pain was short-lived.  Let's just hope we don't see another sequel for a while.

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