Judge Patrick Naugle likes nothing more than shooting fish in a barrel, as long as they can't shoot back.
Double the action.
Do you really need me to explain a movie with a title like Piranha 3DD? There's gonna be giant mutant fish and lots of bouncing boobies. Everything else is just details.
Facts of the Case
Welcome to The Big Wet Water Park, a new "adults only" hot spot that's about to become one long smorgasbord for a group of hungry piranha! Biting off more than he could chew, the park's owner Chet (David Koechner, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy) filtered in water from an outside lake. A lake, not surprisingly, that's filled with giant prehistoric piranha who love to snack on anything—and anyone—soft and fleshy. Chet's marine biologist stepdaughter Maddy (Danielle Panabaker, Friday the 13th) attempts to warn him of the killer fish's history, to no avail. Learning nothing from the previous tragedy at Lake Victoria, the water park opens to disastrous results, when the hungry little monsters enter the piping system and wreck havoc on the sun bathing guests in a gruesome, all out fish-for-all!
The history of the Piranha franchise is littered with famous faces, up-and-coming filmmakers, and lots of mutilated flesh. The series got its start in 1978 with producer Roger Corman, who commissioned director Joe Dante (Gremlins, Small Soldiers) to come up with a low budget rip off of Steven Spielberg's blockbuster hit Jaws. The original Piranha was an amusing, silly horror movie that begat Piranha II: The Spawning, which took the man-eating fish into a whole new playing field: flight. Yes, viewers got to see giant piranha with wings attacking beach-goers in director James Cameron's (Titanic, Avatar) directorial debut. After lying dormant for over two decades (ignoring a terrible 1995 straight-to-DVD remake), director Alexandre Aja (The Hills Have Eyes, High Tension) picked up the reins with Piranha 3D, taking many horror fans by surprise with a campy tongue-in-cheek romp that never took itself seriously.
Then came this mess.
Piranha 3DD (or Piranha DD, depending on which version you watch) is a depressingly lame follow-up to Aja's 2010 shriek show hit, and clearly the death nail in this one promising franchise.
From the very first frame, the film loses its footing. Whereas Piranha 3D employed an inspired opening gag featuring Richard Dreyfuss spoofing his character from Jaws, here we get a grill-toothed Gary Busey (Surviving the Game) and the director's own father, Clu Gulager (Return of the Living Dead). It's bad enough that the film doesn't have a clue what to do with either of them, but the filmmakers don't have a clue what to do with anyone or anything in Piranha 3DD, resulting in an inert and uninspired movie-going experience.
What made Piranha 3D so much fun was that it had real acting talent (Oscar nominee Elisabeth Shue, fan favorite Christopher Lloyd, a wildly over the top Jerry O'Connell), a goofy albeit interesting plot line, and a playful B-movie vibe. Which begs the question: What went so wrong with Piranha 3DD?
Part of the problem is we can tell everyone involved was feeling smugly superior to the material. You can almost sense the collective eye rolls of writers Patrick Melton (Saw IV), Marcus Dunstan (Saw V), and Peter Goldfinger (Sorority Row), as they pounded out this sub par product. Audiences aren't stupid. We can smell insincerity a mile away, and Piranha 3DD is most certainly an insincere cash grab that works on only two levels: "jack" and "shit."
The effects here (excluding the breasts, which are quite realistic) are not even half as good as its predecessor. Not by a very, very long shot. Many of the fish and gore effects look cheaply produced and rushed. While this isn't as bad as a Syfy Original Movie like Mega Shark, they certainly aren't up to par for a studio picture that cost a reported $20 million dollars to make. Another problem (are you seeing a pattern here?) is that the film is so choppily edited that half the time we don't have a clue what's going on. It's as if much of the shot footage was unusable, and the director spliced together what he could without much care for continuity or cohesion.
The screenplay has all the intelligence and nuance of a Uwe Boll film, with none of the finesse. Dialogue runs the gamut from "Look out!" to "JOSH CUT OFF HIS PENIS BECAUSE SOMETHING CAME OUT OF MY VAGINA!" Yes, the studio actually paid someone good money to write those witty gems. If that's all it takes to become a writer in Hollywood, that town has the best job security on the planet.
Director John Gulager—who helmed the less-than-stellar Feast horror series—proves he's best suited for small screen entertainment and not big budget thrills. Returning cast members Ving Rhames (Mission: Impossible) and Christopher Lloyd (Clue) show up to prove they are actors in search of a far better movie than this. Dave Koechner plays a sleazy water park owner who is basically Todd Packer from The Office minus the laughs. Then there's David Hasselhoff playing…David Hasselhoff. The Hoff essentially spends the entire movie spoofing his Baywatch persona, which is funny for a grand total of three minutes.
Look, I'm one of those people who verbally roots for movies like Piranha 3DD. I want to embrace the soft underbelly of the horror genre, especially when a movie surprises me by being good. But when an experience ends up being lifeless and flaccid, I feel as if the air has been sucked out of the room. A dark cloud comes across me and I just want to sit down with the director and have a long, contemplative discussion about what went wrong. Sadly, no amount of constructive criticism can change the fact that this film is about as appetizing as a sushi roll that's been sitting out in the sun for a week.
Presented in 1.78:1/1080p high definition widescreen, I was surprised to find the transfer to be rather inconsistent. There are moments when the image looks fantastic, and others where it's slightly pixilated, often in the underwater footage. The colors are bright and well-rendered, but the black levels are murky and just bland. Much like the movie itself, it's an overall unimpressive picture.
The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix fares much better, offering up an aggressive experience with surround speakers that are fully engaged. Composer Elia Cmiral's music is often pumped up, its baseline thumping through a good portion of the film. There are no alternate language tracks, and only Spanish subtitles are available.
Bonus features include a mildly interesting commentary by director John Gulager (attempting to defend this film), a few standard behind-the-scenes featurettes ("The Story Behind the DD," "The Hofftastic World of David Hasselhoff," "Wet and Wild with David Koechner"), a blooper reel with actor Gary Busey, a short film entitled A Lesson with John McEnroe, and some deleted scenes. We also get a 2D version of the film on Blu-ray (for those without 3D TVs), a standard definition DVD, and a digital copy for your PC or lap top computer.
I was looking forward to Piranha 3DD, strictly because of the guilty glee I felt for Piranha 3D. I guess it was too much to ask for lightning to strike twice.
Banished to a bucket of chum.
Give us your feedback!
Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
• 2D Version
Review content copyright © 2012 Patrick Naugle; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.