Review: Piranha 3D Has Teeth, Breasts, but No Heart

Swarming into theaters this weekend, Piranha 3D looks poised to chomp through the competition and make a mouthful of money. In a summer that has been lacking in the fun department, this flashy remake looks to turn the ridiculous level to eleven, the boobie-meter to overdrive, and the kill count to 87. In many ways, Piranha 3D achieved exactly what it set out to do: make an R-Rated horror movie full of blood and boobs.

While many, including our own Neil Miller, have found something to love in the movie, I found myself strangely disappointed. When a film gives you everything it promised, what can you hold against it? Well, a weak story and a complete lack of resolution.

Piranha 3D switches between following Sheriff Julie Forester in her attempt to clear the lake as the threat becomes clear and an alternate storyline involving her son, who finds himself stuck between a cocksure pornographer and a school of vicious piranha. These aren’t your father’s piranha, or even your African uncle-in-law’s, no, these are ancient, prehistoric piranha who, having survived via cannibalism for thousands of years, who learn to love the taste of freedom, and blood, after an earthquake releases them from their underground cavern prison.

The film wastes little time in getting down to it – Richard Dreyfus cameos as a fisherman singing “Show Me the Way to Go Home,” who is our first human to discover these ancient beasts are hungry for love flesh. It’s fun to see Dreyfus in the film, though his singing is perhaps a little bit too on the nose for my tastes.

Pretty soon into the tight 90 minute run time, Jake Forester is on the “Wild Wild Girls” boat with director Derrick Jones, his girl crush, Paul Scheer, and two alarmingly hot women: porn star Riley Steele and model Kelly Brook. Fast forward a few tequila shots and a four minute long, totally nude underwater ballet between Brook and Steele and giant piranha are chomping at the bits to tear them limb from limb as the boat runs aground thanks to a coke-fueled Derrick mishap. On the other side of the lack, Sheriff Forester can only bear witness as thousands of the hungry fish set upon the party goers and begin rending flesh from bone, swallowing eyeballs, and biting the shit out of asses – almost literally.

It’s a simple formula that sounds amazing – gigantic piranha attack a bunch of naked women, more or less. How could I not be happy? Well, first, let’s address what did work.

The film has balls of steel. There is no denying that Piranha checked any semblance of maturity at the door and fully intended to be a brash, gross, nude film – and it succeeded. There are probably around 20 naked women in the film, a fine, fine number. So many great breasts on display, from Steele to Brook to a cameo boobflash/death from big bosomed porn star Gianna Michaels.

By now you may have heard that the film goes so far as to have a piranha bite off Jones’ (Jerry O’Connell) dick, chew it up, and spit it out. It’s moments like these that are fun, unbelievable, and laugh out loud funny/ridiculous.

So I applaud you, Piranha, for taking risks and gambles in terms of content. There is no other film out there like you. You are spectacle, plain and simple.

But you are not perfect. Not even close. I can’t imagine anyone calling Piranha 3D a ‘good movie.’ It’s not. You tolerate it or enjoy it based purely on the audacity of what’s going on. Horror and exploitation films are often accused of having light stories or weak plots – but at least they’re there. This remake has only the barest of threads holding it together. It’s more like a collection of outrageous shots pasted together that sometimes features characters who know each other. Unlike the original, which sought a way to destroy the beasts, Piranha goes for a cheaper ending punctuated by a laugh given away in the trailer, but even before then all the major characters are pretty content to have killed about 500 of the 250,000 piranha (not including the millions of eggs we see in the cavern) with a ridiculous explosion.

When the film ends, you’ve seen plenty of boobs, many deaths, but nothing has been resolved. The characters are relatively safe for the moment, though are, in fact, worse off than they were before. This wasn’t a bleak or clever winking ending – the main goal of the protagonist just didn’t even include killing or stopping all the piranha. If you wan’t closure, seek it elsewhere.

Another problem for me was the amount of CGI used – and how badly it was used in many places. The Dreyfus whirlpool is laughably bad, 99.9% or more of the piranha are entirely computer generated, and virtually every under water attack is CGI. The only time we see good practical effects are when people have already been attacked and are being pulled out of the water. There is plenty of blood and gore here, exposed bones, lost eyes, huge chunks of flesh missing, but it’s all the after effect, rarely the actual attack.

I can’t really comment on the 3D aspect of the film as my projection had some difficulties were the images went out of synch for several seconds at a time. There are plenty of instances of things jutting out towards you, from vomit to dicks to big ol’ boobies, but I think the film would probably have benefited from being released in 2D instead. After all, it was post converted and not all that well at that.

I can’t help but feel Alexandre Aja made the movie he thought people wanted, but not the movie he actually wanted to make. There is no heart to Piranha. It’s a paint by numbers experience in gore and nudity. While this has some level of enjoyment to it, you’re also being pandered to. “What do boys like?” “Girls, pornos, death, and boobs.” Then you look at the script and every 2 pages there is a girl, every 10 pages is a porno reference or porn star, every 6 pages is a death, and every 8 pages is a boob. Repeat ad infinitum.

I think the reveal at the end of the film should have just been the main thrust of this one. Spoiler alert that doesn’t spoil anything: there are bigger piranha out there. I mean, we’re already dealing with ancient piranha that are about 4 or 5 times larger than modern fish, so why not just jump right to the true monsters?

Piranha 3D is a sexy, bloody train wreck of naked girls. You’ll want to see it just to experience it. It is a movie that instills feelings of awe in you at what has just happened on screen, but in fighting the system, it veers too far off course and, while it’s great spectacle and interesting entertainment, it fails to impress as an actual movie.

Clearly I am torn. I want to love this film for what it is, but under the beautiful boobed packaged, this hot and exciting mess has little endearing about it.

The Upside: Dozens of very beautiful women exposing their breasts, some great gored up bodies, and a buffed up Elisabeth Shue.

The Downside: No heart, no plot, no resolution, and too much CGI that is often disappointing.

On the Side: The film features at least three porn stars: Riley Steele, Gianna Michaels, and Ashlynn Brooke (as a cheerleader).

Robert Fure is many things: horror expert, ruggedly handsome man of the world, witty prose composer, and writer of his own biography page. Beneath the bravado is a scared little boy, ready to grow into an awesome man and make lies about a scared little boy inside of him. Wait a minute...

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