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WGUC Reviews

Piranha 3-D

Piranha 3-D
Atmosphere Entertainment
Rated R
Now Showing at: most major theaters.
Review by: Larry Thomas


It seems as if the one genre of filmmaking that is at the forefront for scorn and disdain is the current trend of remaking older, better horror films. The original Nightmare On Elm St., Friday The 13th, and Halloween have all received big-screen updating which have not necessarily been for the better.

Given the inglorious track record of such endeavors, it was assumed that Piranha 3-D would fall into the same category. But to the surprise of many it was well received by audiences and critics alike. It’s certainly not a movie for the squeamish or sensitive, but if you have fond memories of the original 1978 thriller, this may be up your alley.

Piranha 3-D is comparatively low-budget and filled to the brim with visceral carnage, gratuitous nudity, and a sense of humor, just like you remember from the best drive-in movies of the 1970s. There hasn’t been this much fake movie blood spilled in one ninety-minute sitting since George Romero unleashed the original Dawn Of The Dead in 1979.

The original Piranha came with a stellar b-movie pedigree. The screenplay was by John Sayles, a revered independent filmmaker. Noted low-budget guru Roger Corman was the executive producer, while producer credit fell to Jon Davison, just one film away from his legendary Airplane! Director Joe Dante was handed his first important assignment with Piranha, before tackling the eighties favorite Gremlins.

The plot is essentially the same as in the original: a frenzied school of uber-piranha is loosed on a lake where vacationers become fish food. The main difference is that the original focused on a summer camp for kids, while the update makes it a spring break getaway for rowdy, randy college students. A new subplot has a sleazy producer, a la “Girls Gone Wild,” doing a video shoot in and around the lake. He’s played by TV’s Jerry O’Connell as the kind of guy, when his turn comes, you know you’ll be rooting for the fish.

Trying to keep order in this small-town scenario is local sheriff Elisabeth Shue. Yes, the same Elisabeth Shue who was Oscar nominated for her terrific performance in Leaving Las Vegas. She’s still talented, attractive, and should really be working more. Our sheriff has three kids: two cute and precocious younger ones, and a college-age son, who has “hero” written all over him, as played by Steven R. McQueen, the grandson of movie icon Steve McQueen. Also popping up in small roles are Pulp Fiction’s Ving Rhames, Richard Dreyfuss as a character several decades removed from his Jaws persona, and Christopher Lloyd who channels the best of Doc Brown from the Back To The Future films and Jim from “Taxi” into one seriously perplexed fish expert.

There are no surprises in the plot, set-ups, and execution throughout the film. From Creature From The Black Lagoon to Jaws to Alien, you’ve seen it all before. But like the prehistoric fish herein, this film is also a throwback… to the glory days of drive-in movies from the 70s, when blood, gore, and nudity splattered the screen in abundance. And if that description totally turns you off, Piranha 3-D is definitely not your kind of film. However, if you have memories of hanging out at a local midnight show, or going to the drive-in, with friends, you will certainly feel an air of nostalgia for those days… and hopefully those films as well.

It will also come as no surprise that the final shot of Piranha 3-D is a set-up for the expected sequel, which was announced as going into production at the same time this one opened.

One last caveat: if you do venture out to see Piranha 3-D, think about postponing that after-movie sushi dinner for a couple of weeks.

The extremely R-rated Piranha 3-D is now angling for your attendance at a fishing hole near you.


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