Saturday, September 3, 2011

Movie Review: Shark Night 3D Bites, and Not in a Good Way

Review in a Hurry: Hot coeds and a lake full of hungry sharks, all popping out at ya in 3-D should be an easy win. We loved last year's awesome Piranha 3D, and really wanted this movie to have bite. Something's off though, since it's really not a picture about sharks going all Jaws on its victims at all. Nope, this Night is more

about the haves versus the have-nots which in our recession era could be interesting, but it's so not. Plus, with a PG-13 rating, the shark attacks are mostly botched in dark, dim 3-D waters.

On the bright side Idol Katharine McPhee does look good in a bikini...

The Bigger Picture: Louisiana native Sara (Sara Paxon) wants to show her city classmates a good time with a weekend of fun in the sun. So she's invited them all to stay at her family's island paradise on the lake. Four dudes, three gals. At first, the only pesky thing is no cell phone reception. But things get way worse when star football player Malik (Sinqua Walls) gets his arm torn a shark. Shortly after that, a shark takes a bigger chunk out of his girlfriend Maya (Alyssa Diaz).

A shark? In a lake? How is that even possible? Do you even care? Well, even if you don't, the script is going to stop dead in its tracks to explain it all. And then stop again, to show that the real villains are hillbilly stereotypes.They even named one of them Red, as in redneck. His teeth are razor a shark!

If the "poor rednecks are evil" storyline was played for laughs we could have forgiven having to sit though the Southern baddies angle, but it makes the tone of the film mean-spirited and ugly. Idol's McPhee is as sexy as you'd imagine, but having her strip down to her underwear at gun point doesn't feel dramatic, just exploitive.

Ya see, Shark Night 3D is less a horror film—the suspense barely comes from the sharks—and more a made-for-TV drama about Sara's old friends terrorizing her new ones.

Which is strange, because director David R. Ellis has been a great fit for the kind of trashy fun that you'd think a film titled Shark Night would have been. (He's made not one but two Final Destinations.) Maybe that's because the PG-13 rating robs Ellis of his gift for shooting crazed but entertaining kills.

Still, the cast is uniformly solid. Paxon is a sympathetic girl-next-door and the southern baddies convince. Clearly, Ellis was going for something more than just a dumb dead teenager film. He deserved a script that didn't play like warmed-over Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

The 180—a Second Opinion: Donal Logue does what he can as the local sheriff on the lake. Even a part below his talents still manages to give him a few fun scenes as the leader of more than just the local law.

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