When I was planning on seeing Piranha 3D, I went with no intention of writing a review. Although it was a remake of a film I enjoy a great deal, I usually don’t write up current-run film reviews here on the site. But I enjoyed the film enough and I think it was interesting enough that I wanted write something up. As I think about it while I write this (I should maybe plan these out first), the reason I want to write about the film, is because unlike other remakes, this movie seems to me to actually catch a bit of that original magic that a good B movie should exhibit. So with that in mind, I will tell you a little bit about Piranha 3D — needless to say, there be spoilers ahead.
Piranha 3D is a remake or re-imagining of the original Corman produced Joe Dante classic, Piranha. This film has a much higher budget then the original, plus it has the advantage of having powerful computers to render the fish stars of the film. To Piranha 3D’s credit, usually when these films are being updated with the latest technology, they go overboard and the computer generated monsters look horrible. But the Piranha’s in Piranha 3D are “prehistoric” fish and therefore can look unusual without ruining suspension of disbelief. Couple that with some excellent makeup work + a millions gallons of fake blood and you got a film that is at least the equal on many levels to the original Piranha (which had the excellent talent of Rob Bottin and Phil Tippett.)
Piranha 3D takes a page out of the original and has some excellent actors that add legitimacy to the film. To me the standouts are Elizabeth Shue as town law, Julie Forester and Jerry O’Connell as a Girls Gone Wild-style movie maker, Derrick Jones. Shue is wonderfully serious in the face of a difficult to believe concept and does a fine job in an action role. I found her believable enough in the role that I think this is career direction she should explore in the future. O’Connell is equally good in an opposite role as a self absorbed sleezemeister. His comeuppance in the film is predictable and exceptionally well done. You see it coming from two movie theaters away, but when he finally gets “piranha’d” the movie theater I was in started applauding.
Rounding out the cast is a very underutilized Ving Rhames as Deputy Fallon and Adam Scott as science-type guy named Novak, who has a great Jet Ski scene and finished out the film with a bang. Now, before I go any further I am about to mention two big spoilers about the film’s cast that you might want to avoid before reading (they made me very happy). So last chance to stop reading…
The film has two unadvertised cameos (both of which are heavily discussed on blogs). The first, at the very start of the film, is Richard Dreyfuss as Matt Hooper (THE Matt Hooper from Jaws). The second is Christopher Lloyd as a fish specialist who chews through the scenery and reveals the very satisfying Novak ending twist at the end of the film.
I know I have been saying all good things, but I did find a few things unsatisfying about the film. I liked the deeper and equally improbably backstory of the original Piranha, better then the idea of pre-historic fish being unleashed from an underwater lake.
I also did not care for the teen romance angle of the film. A big selling point for these type of films is the violence combined with nudity, but I am not sure I needed the main characters to be two 17 year olds. Not sure why they chose that for a film that is rated R..unless of course they are actually making a rated R film that they are hoping kids will go see! Oh Hollywood you are a crafty beast and you done good, because half the people in the theater I was in were under 16. I have to admit, having been a 16 year old at one point, I would have been all over this film.
Oh and another thing, I am also not sure the film needed the 3D. It wasn’t distracting, but it also didn’t really add enough to the end product to make me think it was anything but a cash grab. Admittedly I am not a huge fan of the modern use of 3D, but I think if you are going to do a crazy fish in 3D film, them fish better be crazy 3D from start to finish. Sure they jumped at me, but I wanted them jumping at me all the time or not at all. Only once in the film, did the 3D effect make the whole theater I was in react and it was more the 3D object on the screen rather then the 3D effect. You will know it when you see it.
Is Piranha serious cinema? No way, but it is wonderfully goofy and disarmingly consistent as a horror film. It is not going to win any Academy Awards this year, but it is nice to see the b-movie horror film alive and kicking outside of the on-the-cheap SyFy films and cheesy torture films (which they ran a 3D preview for before the film). If you like the type of movies you would see heavily edited on the USA network after midnight on the weekend in the 1980s, then Piranha 3D might be for you.