Piranha 3D (2010) - Can't Stop the Movies
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Piranha 3D (2010)

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Andrew INDIFFERENTAlexandre Aja is now 3 for 3 for making promising films that deliver short term entertainment and long term discomfort.  High Tension was a stylish slasher that made the unfortunate point that all lesbians are insane murderers (this didn't sit quite well with me).  Then his remake of The Hills Have Eyes which made a similar point about hillbillies.  Now his biggest hit Piranha 3D has it's eyes set squarely on the vapid spring break crowds that form around large bodies of water when the weather turns warm.  A deserving target?  Possibly, but not with the uncomfortable positions he puts them in.

Piranha 3D is the remake of the 1978 Roger Corman produced B-movie classic.  The original was a parody of Jaws and the opening thirty minutes or so of Piranha 3D pay homage to both it's predecessor and Jaws in some fairly entertaining ways.  Richard Dreyfuss shows up to play a fisherman drinkin' and fishin' out in the middle of the lake when a small earthquake opens a hole in the lake bed.  Then the piranhas (swimming up amidst the discarded lawn chairs and beer bottles - a touch that made me chuckle) descend upon the hapless fisherman and reduce him to a skeleton in record time.

Ir Piranha 3D were a worse movie this would be a too perfect metaphor.

So while the disaster is coming we set up a series of home front stories so that we have "dramatic weight".  Elisabeth Shue plays a tough cop who can't stand the Spring Break party goers that have descended on her quiet lake.  Then there's her son (Steven R. Mcqueen) who is dealing with his own hormonal impulses while trying to find a way to show his crush he cares.  Rounding out the plot trio is a disreputable "director" (Jerry O. Connell) who joins in the Spring Break crowd to film a porno for his Girls Gone Wild knock off.

While all this "plot" stuff is getting set up we're treated to a number of ominous shots of the piranhas testing the water and swimming dangerously close to bikini lines.  I rather enjoyed all this cheesy set up and had a goofy grin on my face all the time.  The opening was spot on ridiculous fun, then little acting touches like Ving Rhames showing up to play just a slightly too bad ass river cop feel right for this kind of schlock.  Most glorious is Jerry O. Connell as the porno director.  He's a slobbering mass of id interested in sucking tequila out of the navels of anyone who will let him played with enough shade of slimeball so that you know this isn't the guy to look up to.

Aja plays all this with a pretty light touch without skimping on the gore factor and including a couple of other welcome cameos to add more comedic touches to the surroundings.  It's hard to make a piranha attack work when positioned next to scenes of naked women swimming around each other in perfectly crystal water as The Flower Duet reaches a crescendo on the sound track.  They're absurd and goofy, but they work.

Another plus - Doc Brown shows up to provide some scientific mumbo jumbo about the piranhas.

That is until the full-on attack of the piranha's takes effect and Shue's cop has to restore order and save her family.  Then some of that unintentional subtext that manages to creep into each of his films becomes outlined.  The piranha's attack and, of course, they start ripping the tops off of women while being cut in half.  Then one woman gets her hair tangled into a boat engine which results in a scalp being torn straight off her skull.  Then another is accidentally torn in half by two men trying to help her.

On and on this goes for almost half an hour.  It's just anarchy and unrestrained violence with uncomfortable attempts to try and go back to the humor that was so widely utilized in the beginning of the film.  But with the length of the anarchy even a desperate last stand with a boat engine isn't enough to repel the never ending wave of gore that threatens to spill out onto the audience.  I wasn't impressed.

In fact I was just getting nauseous and a little angry, but not so much to completely erase the goodwill generated by a nice chunk of the film.  Piranha 3D could have been as fun as the Roger Corman original, but didn't know when to say "Hey, I think we've got enough here".  I hope that Aja lives up to his full potential one day and learns to tone things down a bit.  The presence of Eli Roth in this film does not bode well for that hope.

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Piranha 3D (2010)

Directed by Alexandre Aja.
Written by Pete Goldfinger, Josh Stolberg, Alexandre Aja, and Gregory Levasseur.
Starring Elisabeth Shue, Steven R. McQueen, Jerry O'Connell and Ving Rhames.

Posted by Andrew

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