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October 9, 2012

Piranha 3DD

by Franz Patrick


Piranha 3DD (2012)
★ / ★★★★

After the massacre that happened in Lake Victoria, leaving its nearby towns ravaged and under quarantine, it seemed that the very same species of flesh-eating piranhas, once thought to be extinct, had made their way to Cross Lake. Directly next to the latter lake was a water park scheduled to have its grand opening in two days. Despite warnings by his marine biologist stepdaughter, Maddy (Danielle Panabaker), recently out of graduate school, Chet (David Koechner) was determined to keep the park open and get rich. “Piranha 3DD,” written by Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan, and Joel Soisson, may never be described as smart but it absolutely had scenes that were amusing and entertaining. Since it was obvious that the filmmakers were very aware of how silly the premise of piranhas taking a bite out of people in lakes and swimming pools, no effort was made in getting us to know its characters. And it didn’t need to: it was made abundantly clear that its goals were not high which was perfectly acceptable. As a result, it was able to pay more attention on two things. First, sleazy shots of breasts and buttocks of various sizes were captured and used to full effect. Some toasted under the sun while others bobbled in water. The women who sported skimpy, often translucent, bikinis having just gotten out of the pool were shot in slow motion. There were a handful who appeared completely nude. Who goes skinny dipping in complete daylight… in a public pool? Nobody. But the filmmakers still went for it. Although undeniable that the picture objectified women, it did not feel mean-spirited because there was one or two punches that directly targeted men where it hurt. Secondly, it utilized stereotypes as personality templates for the potential victims. Particularly amusing to watch was Shelby (Katrina Bowden), the virgin, who hoped to finally have sex for the first time with Josh (Jean-Luc Bilodeau), the charmer. There was a running joke about her seeming to have nine lives because she was able to hold onto her “purity,” a nudge to one of the biggest clichés in horror films. Even though I didn’t know much about Maddy and her friends, when the piranha attacks inevitably arrived, I still found myself rooting for them to quickly get out the water if they happened to fall in. The fish bites were hard, fast, and bloody so I couldn’t help but flinch. However, its positive qualities were mostly placed in the first half which required its remaining minutes a lot of effort to sit through. The appearances of David Hasselhoff, playing himself, and Ving Rhames as a survivor from Alexandre Aja’s “Piranha,” were more distractions than cheeky. When they were in front of the camera, the film became more about recycled jokes than the innate fun stupidity of what was unfolding in Cross Lake and the water park. A presence that felt right, however, was Christopher Lloyd playing a scientist who studied the ravenous fish. His character moved the plot forward as opposed to creating a stagnancy that spawned boredom. Lastly, when the aftershock of the piranha attacks have passed and the screenplay continued to wander, it was like watching nothing on screen. “Piranha DD,” directed by John Gulager, was almost saved by its self-awareness but it didn’t offer enough excitement that were consistent enough to continually distract us from its limitations. Like being caught in stop-and-go traffic, we couldn’t be blamed for losing patience with it.

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