PIRAHNA 3D Review:
- Going into a movie like Pirahna 3D, you have a very basic set of expectations. You want fun, you want carnage, you want laughs, you want scares. And maybe, just maybe, you want an extended scene of Kelly Brook frollicking lustily (and nakedly) with another woman underwater ... in 3D. On all of those counts, Pirahna 3D delivers. It's not a great movie, but it's a fun time at the cinema, no doubt about it. That said, is there some of that "Snakes on a Plane" syndrome at work here? Does the movie want to be self-aware, so-bad-it's good camp, yet only end up as so bad it's ... bad? Sometimes, I do think the movie falls into that trap. But while "Snakes" was, ultimately, just bad, Pirahna has enough inspired moments that I have to give it one (severed) thumb up.
Updating the classic, Roger Corman-produced B-movie for 2010, Pirahna 3D never takes itself too seriously. Now, here's where I sometimes think that modern B-movie auteurs tend to miss the point of the old-school Corman movies. The great thing about those was that, yes, they had humor, but they also had conviction. The movies had huge ambition, and despite some winks at the audience, in their own way, they took themselves very seriously. Classic B-movies tend to walk a very fine line between self-seriousness and self-parody, but they usually lean towards the former. Where Pirahna 3D tends to falter is in the fact that the tone swings pretty wildly throughout the film. There are moments of insane, over-the-top sex and violence that are fairly awesome, but all of the filler stuff isn't as fun - it's teen drama that seems to have been lifted straight out of some bad CW soap. Basically, the overall blandness of the main characters is a real rough spot for the movie. In Pirahna 3D, cheesiness is fine and even welcome, but bland is nearly unforgivable.
Luckily, there is enough craziness in the movie to counterbalance the lame teen-drama stuff. Sure, we may have to suffer through the boring main character and his girl problems, but to counteract that we get moments of CHRISTOPHER LLOYD acting awesomely nutty. We get Ving Rhames as one badass Pirahna-killer. We get Jerry O'Connell as a hilariously sleazy peddler of "Girls Gone Wild"-style videos. And, we get a movie-stealing Elisabeth Shue as our protagonist's still-hot mom who's a local cop that can kick ass and take names. Basically, she makes her emotastic son look like a giant $%#%. Not to get on a soapbox or anything, but some of these teen actors need to learn how to act with the proper B-movie hero tone, where you take everything super-seriously and play it straight no matter how crazy things get ... with just the slightest hint of self-awareness thrown in for good measure. Elisabeth Shue and Ving Rhames get it, and they totally school the youngsters. Adam Scott is also pretty entertaining as a smirky specialist called in to help with the Pirahna problem. On the other hand ... Jessica Szohr from Gossip Girl is running around as if she's still on Gossip Girl (where she plays the show's most annoying character by far). Steven R. McQueen, our lead (and, uh, nice name by the way), might as well be acting as if he's guest-starring on Gossip Girl. And hey, I admit it, I like Gossip Girl. But this is Pirahna 3D, dammit all.
Now, Pirahna 3D has a somewhat slow build-up to get to the really good stuff, but the movie really pays off in the final act, when it erupts into an orgy of aquatic violence and gore. It's cartoonish and oftentimes hilarious, and yes, a lot of fun to watch. Director Alexandre Aja has a lot of fun with all the craziness - getting some truly creative (and oftentimes laugh-out-loud funny) kills on film.
I wish the script had been a little more fun and sharp. Christopher Lloyd's big expository scene hints at the sort of campy goodness that could have been, and it helps that he sells it all like a champ. You also wonder why the movie had to resort to having two small kids as main characters - the whole kids-in-peril part of the movie seems to detract a little from the fun, and takes you out of the film's subversive spirit. It just feels weird to keep cutting to these little kids in the midst of the much more debaucherous storylines involving spring-breakers, sleazy video producers, etc.
In the end though, Pirahna 3D was a fun little movie that ultimately delivered on its promise of over-the-top 3D carnage. It's got killer pirahnas going insane, Christopher Lloyd acting insane, and yes, Kelly Brook in 3D in scenes sure to fog up many a pair of 3D glasses. At times, the movie just feels flat. But when business eventually picks up, there are enough "oh my god!" moments to send you home happy. It's a good time at the theater, no question.
My Grade: B