Piranha 3DD tries so desperately to capture what made Alexandre Aja’s 2009 remake work, but also wants to take everything to a more extreme level. Hence there’s more innuendo, juvenile humour, and a good deal of nudity (though, in what’s surely blasphemous for a flick wanting to emulate 80’s camp – neither of the two main female leads doff their duds). At the same time, in the hands of director John Gulager, who’s familiar with this type of fare having made the Feast series, it’s a complete waste of time with a barely there story, not nearly as much wit, and a whole slew of padding. Plus, there’s also an almost unhealthy obsession with David Hasselhoff.
After some quick footage of the original set up to look like a news story, things kick off in a very similar vein as the original as Gulager takes care of some celebrity cameos early when two redneck farmers (Gary Busey and the director’s dad, cult actor Clu of Return of the Living Dead fame) are chewed on by some surviving piranha when they go into the swamp to retrieve a dead cow. This isn’t a bad pre-credits sequence, though it doesn’t come nearly as close to the fun casting of Richard Dreyfuss in the first flick and the appearance of Busey is pretty lame since his reputation as an eccentric weirdo isn’t that amusing anymore.
Welcome to Arizona and the soon-to-be grand reopening of the Big Wet water park at the hands of Chet (David Koechner) who has re-imagined it to satisfy both families and those horny types looking to ogle nude women. Into the picture comes his “back in town” stepdaughter Maddy (Danielle Panabaker) who not only doesn’t like the way he’s treating her family’s business, but who also soon gets wind of the fact our piranhas from before may still be around and are possibly heading for the chlorinated waterslides and wave pools.
Apart from this thin premise there’s also various set pieces involving people (usually in the midst of sexual activity) being chewed on, a side visit to Christopher Lloyd’s wacky scientist from the original, a lame romantic subplot between Maddy and the nerdy Barry (Matt Bush), and a finale that brings back a, now legless, Ving Rhames and also sports a few good natured chuckles at the expensive of Hasselhoff and his “Baywatch” days but still can’t deliver on the gory goods like Aja did. It all stumbles along to a “look how shocking we can be!” finale and credits that pad the runtime by at least ten minutes with various bloopers and even more Hasselhoff(!).
“Josh cut off his penis because something came out of my vagina.” This is a line of dialogue uttered in the movie, and one I’ve read in various places, making it memorable if mostly because it’s so stupid. However, when you consider stupid is the main word you could use to describe this 83 minute stinker, then you shouldn’t be surprised. I’m not about to say the 2009 flick wasn’t dumb as well and the 1978 source material is pretty silly too, but at least they had a fine balance between humour and bloodshed while attempting some sort of plot – here Gulager and his crew are just out to make a quick buck pinning all their juvenility onto a two-line plot description.
On the acting front it’s really difficult for Panabaker to follow in the shoes of Elisabeth Shue’s heroine in the first, but she doesn’t do badly. The same goes for Bush who is geeky enough to be somewhat likeable. Chris Zylka as corrupt deputy Kyle is weak and Koechner (Anchorman, “The Office”) gives his typical smarmy performance. Rhames offers up a few mild chuckles while using fake legs equipped with a shotgun (Planet Terror, much?) and Hasselhoff does offer up some self-effacing humour.
While I still find Joe Dante’s 1978 effort an extremely fun product of its decade and had a better time than expected with Aja’s redux, it has to say something about Piranha 3DD that it debuted in less than one-hundred theaters opening weekend, went straight to video-on-demand services, and isn’t even as inspired as James Cameron’s flawed Piranha II: The Spawning and it’s ridiculous fact that the fish in that one could actually fly. (Chris Hartley, 6/6/12)
Directed By: John Gulager.
Written By: Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan, Joel Soisson.
Starring: Danielle Panabaker, Matt Bush, David Koechner, Jean-Luc Bilodeau.