Letter From The Editor - Issue 59 - October 2017

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Writing Fantasy

  
At The Picture Show
June 2012

Piranha 3DD
Zero stars

Six degrees of separation

The road between an actual movie and 'Piranha 3DD' is long, treacherous, and better left untraveled

Piranha 3DD
Dimension Films
Director: John Gulager
Screenplay: Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan and Joel Soisson
Starring: Danielle Panabaker, Matt Bush, David Koechner, Chris Zylka, Katrina Bowden, Jean-Luc Bilodeau, Ving Rhames and Christopher Lloyd
Rated R / 1 hour, 23 minutes
Now playing in limited release and VOD
Zero stars (out of four)

Rarely have I seen a more disingenuous movie than Piranha 3DD. This is someone's bad impression of a theoretical idea of a sequel to someone else's remake of a parody of a subgenre that in itself was a parody of another subgenre. There are so many layers of irony and cynicism between this movie and its predecessors that it can't help but collapse upon itself. Piranha 3DD is a joke of a joke of a joke of a joke. It's like cinematic inbreeding.

The result, after all those layers, is that there's not much of a movie left at all. Literally. This thing is 83 minutes long - and I swear, no less than 13 minutes of that is closing credits and outtakes. That's 15.6 percent. The filmmakers know they don't have a movie, but they need to pretend they do by extending the runtime as much as possible.

Well, we're not biting. (Piranha joke!) (Because they bite.) Strip away the filler and what remains is a 70-minute void with no story, no angle, no idea, no joke and no purpose. College kids stuck in a love triangle discover a pack of piranha has invaded their town on the eve of the grand re-opening of the water park that is illegally funneling water from an underground lake. The piranha arrive, attack, and then the movie ends. I swear to you, I did not leave anything out.

You know you're scraping the bottom of the creativity barrel when you use David Hasselhoff as your film's ironic centerpiece. When was the last time anyone thought Hasselhoff's inexplicable pop-culture status was still funny? That kind of ironic stature has a pretty brief shelf life anyway, and his expired long ago. After that it just becomes pathetic. And not the kind of pathetic that allows one to redeem oneself by being self-deprecating about the whole thing, but the kind of pathetic that prevents one from realizing the jig is up.

Worst of all, the film doesn't even find a remotely clever way to use whatever cachet he may have left, instead delivering only the most painfully obvious jokes. Like having him play lifeguard in his famous red swim trunks and, yes, run in slow motion to the theme song from Baywatch. You could not come up with a less original joke if you dedicated the rest of your life to trying.

When the movie's fictional Hasselhoff arrives at the water park for his big moment, he utters to himself, "Welcome to rock bottom." Well, he's wrong. Making a public appearance at a water park is not celebrity rock bottom. Making a movie about yourself making a public appearance at a water park, five years after that idea would have been funny or relevant - that's rock bottom. Unless there's a hidden bottom underneath that I'm not yet aware of - some crevice you'd have to drill through the bottom of a lake bed to find. Rest assured, if it exists, the people responsible for Piranha 3DD will find it.

Oh, and Gary Busey shows up at the beginning so that we can watch him get eaten alive. Gary Busey! Get it?! The filmmakers want you to. They know that Gary Busey is ironically funny somehow, so they put him in their movie and hope that somebody laughs because . . . ya know, it's Gary Busey! And he's crazy! And this is a crazy B-movie that is soooo self-conscious! Look! Look how self-conscious and ironic we are! We randomly put Gary Busey in our hilarious movie, haha!

I'm half-surprised Charlie Sheen didn't show up to beat up some piranha and make some crack about "winning." As backwards and un-clever as the Piranha 3DD director and writers are, they're probably kicking themselves for not thinking of that.

And poor Ving Rhames and Christopher Lloyd. They find themselves stuck here, reprising their roles from Piranha 3D - Lloyd as the piranha expert who gets to show up for one scene of exposition, and Rhames as the now-legless former deputy sheriff, who gets to show up to provide the film with a prosthetic leg machine gun (an uninspired steal from Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror) and nothing else.

Lest anyone think I'm simply writing this off as camp trash, or am incapable of enjoying it as such, I feel a distinction needs to be made between last year's predecessor, Piranha 3D, and this sequel. I hold some admiration for the former, which at least was an earnest attempt at cheesy, winking B-grade horror, with a little bit of genuine wit to boot. Piranha 3DD attempts to double down in every respect, but doesn't land a single joke, a single scene or a single performance. It is endlessly dull precisely because its efforts to be campy are so ham-handed and desperate. Even the breasts are boring. Friends, this is not a sentiment I express lightly.

This movie is like the douche you knew in college who wore that ironic T-shirt but had no comprehension of what the ironic statement even was, or that he was unwittingly the butt of it, but nevertheless insisted on pointing out how hilariously ironic the shirt was. Piranha 3DD is that guy. Its entire existence is built around some ambiguous concept of irony that it understands only to the point of wearing it as a cheap affectation.

Read more by Chris Bellamy


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