Piranha (2010)

Posted: March 8, 2011 in Movies

Let’s get the obvious out of the way upfront, Piranha is exactly what you’d expect: a B-movie creature-feature throwback that’s full of cheesy dialogue, hammy acting and over-the-top scenes of exposed flesh, mangled meat and plenty of red sauce. But that’s definitely a kind of sandwich that some moviegoers will eat right up.

If you’re not one of those moviegoers, well then you can stop reading right here. This movie is NOT for you. If you happen to be one of those moviegoers who loves the schlocky thrills and chills a film like Piranha has to offer, I’ll tell you what you’re in store for.

The premise is simple: Lake Victoria has a small podunk town on its shores that only sees action once a year when an army of college kids invade the lake to get naked and crazy in the usual Spring Break fashion. Just before the festivities kick-off, a small earthquake opens a chasm at the bottom of the lake, exposing a passage to a subterranean lake where a vicious species of prehistoric piranha have been living for the past 2 million years or so (why not?). The fish get loose and in their beady little eyes, the party people at Lake Victoria are a giant buffet.

Our “narrative anchor” is Jake Forester (Steven R. McQueen), a teenage kid who never gets to have much fun. His mother Julie Forester (Elisabeth Shue) is the town sheriff and Jake has to forgo the Spring Break party circuit in order to babysit his little brother and sister (who are charmingly played by Brooklyn Proulx and Sage Ryan). The lack of a social life keeps Jake from being able to make a move on his crush, Kelly (Jessica Szohr), but things start looking up when he runs across Derrick Jones (Jerry O’Connell), the scummy director of the “Wild, Wild, Girls” video series. Derrick needs a local “sand rat” to guide him to the lake’s best spots, and Jake wouldn’t mind getting a little closer to Derrick’s Wild Girls, Danni (Kelly Brook) and Crystal (Riley Steele). So Jake takes Derrick’s offer and hops onboard the wild boat, and it’s all going well until Kelly shows up and Derrick takes a shine to her. Suddenly Jake isn’t enjoying living on the wild side.

After that you can guess what happens: piranha attack, people die, and our main character fights for his girl. Nobody is really watching Piranha for its epic and moving narrative. So let’s talk what does matter:

The movie is gross. If you know anything about director Alexandre Aja (High Tension, The Hills Have Eyes) this shouldn’t surprise you. The man has a real talent for somehow conveying the gruesomeness of death, without venturing into the almost cartoonish excesses of torture-porn. When these piranha finally do come calling and Spring Break gets turned into a massacre, it, is, ugly. As for the little aquatic killers themselves: the GGI work in this film isn’t going to win any Oscars, ever, by any means. The fish look like CGI fish, and that’s all there is too it. The film wisely uses a lot of shots of quick darting little shapes just below the water’s surface, or blurred glimpses of little dark streaks zipping by — images that don’t require that much detail to convey what’s happening. Other times in the film, when an unlucky victim is being devoured by a pack of hungry piranha, the whole sequence is all-too obviously CGI. But in the end, the lack of Avatar-level effects doesn’t take all that much away from this type of film.

The acting isn’t all that bad. Elisabeth Shue still has it (in both the looks and acting department), Ving Rhames is Ving Rhames, Richard Dreyfuss and Christopher Lloyd both make hilarious cameos riffing on some of their past iconic rolls (I’ll let you guess which), and Adam Scott does pretty well as a quasi-leading man type guy. New kids McQueen and Szohr are… not so great, but they are luckily surrounded by some better actors who can hold them up. Jerry O’Connell is the best by far, turning what could’ve been a simple scummy character into the hambone king of douchebags. Of course the roles don’t exactly demand all that much of the actors here, but this film could’ve been a lot worse if the actors involved had played it in a way that made the camp seem unintentional. Only the younger actors make that mistake, the older cast know exactly why they are here — two words: fish bait.

Let us not fail to mention body parts jiggling, barf flying and in-your-face moments of gore — there are even some in-your-face moments of gory body parts jiggling that I never wanted or needed to see. The movie definitely goes too far at times, whether in bad taste or actual offense is something that I’m sure people will be talking about. It’s surprising as hell that what shows up on the screen got away with an R rating from the MPAA.

All in all, this movie was a joyous romp through the water – and if you are in to movies of this genre, give it a peek. It will be well worth your time.

7/10

Buy at: Amazon

IMDB: Here

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