Saturday, August 21, 2010

Piranha 3D (2010)

No one can accuse Piranha 3D of not delivering what director Alexandre Aja promised, which was to fill the screen with waves of bare skin and bitten flesh. And the film does for its 89 minute running time, just long enough for the audience to start feeling overdosed on bloody water and bouncing boobs.

Discussing the plot is futile. This movie is dumb as a bag of rocks, with its only clever moment (a great cameo in the opening scene) spoiled by the trailer and endless publicity. The script only serves to drive the prehistoric piranha to the spring break partiers and put the main characters in peril. When the film pauses for a moment to explain a plot point, such as when an aquarium shop owner explains how these fish survived in an underwater lake with no food source but each other for eons, it buckles under its own stupidity. But who really cares. Such scenes is nothing more than a flimsy excuse for you to suspend all disbelief until the next attack. Or the next dropped bikini top.

The acting is as good as you can expect. The actors make the most of what they are given, which isn't much, and no one give a bad performance. However, Jerry O'Connell gets to steal the show as a sleazy porn producer fueled by champagne, tequila, coke and an enormous ego. Oily and menacing, O'Connell chews up the scenery like, well, a school of ravenous piranha and delivers the most enjoyable performance in the film.

The nudity is, well, stunning. No quick glimpses or shadowy presentation here. It's all long shots and in your face (thanks, in part, to the 3D presentation). And while the scenes at the spring break party are rather crass, others are shot with a stunning reverence for naked women. A topless parasailer, pulled through the water before she's airborne, is filmed from below in a visually stunning shot. And the underwater ballet, where two naked women "dance" together (displaying breath control that would make Micheal Phelps envious) is as beautiful as the opening credits in a Connery-era Bond film. Except this time, the lights are on and no one is a silhouette. I'm surprised at how much the MPAA let Aja get away with in this scene. Maybe the 3D image was too blurry for them.

With all the bare flesh flashing across the screen, I was a bit surprised that the guys didn't get into the act. The men are surprisingly chaste for a bunch of spring break partiers, with only one mooning scene as a comedic aside. Aja, and the filmmakers that will follow him, might consider adding a few beefcake shots for female horror fans next time. I'm sure they'd appreciate it.

The gore is a great mix of practical and CGI. K.N.B. EFX Group once again produces some amazing work, with very realistic wounds and munched up bodies. And some of the gore gags during the siege on the spring breakers are simply breathtaking. It's nice to see Karo syrup blood back on the screen.

As for the fish, they still look a bit silly, though less than in the early previews. And when onscreen alone, it's hard not to chuckle a bit. But the feeding frenzy moments are great, and at times it's hard to tell when the victim is a practical effect or a CGI construct.

The 3D is about as good as you can get for post production effects. It's obvious that Aja and his crew planned for the conversion, because I didn't notice any of the darkness associated with Clash of the Titans. Even the night time underwater shots are clear and visible. And this foresight allows the 3D to be used more as a gimmick than a simple add on. Puke, fish and body parts are continually thrown at the audience and it works so well, I doubt the film would be as much fun in 2D. So see it in the theaters if you can.

I felt this film was a great time. It made me wish that some of our local pub theaters could invest in 3D technology. This film is perfect for a group of friends sharing a few pitchers of beer, hooting and laughing at one of the most shamelessly cheesy horror films ever made.

Beware, it isn't for everyone. It's lewd, crude, very bloody and easily earns it's R-rating. But if you find these more of a virtue than a vice, it's a perfect summer movie.

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