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The Independent Critic

Elisabeth Shue, Jerry O'Connell, Richard Dreyfuss, Eli Roth, Adam Scott, Christopher Lloyd, Ving Rhames
Alexandre Aja
Josh Stolberg, Pete Goldfinger
Rated R
82 Mins.
The Weinstein Company


 "Piranha 3-D" Review 
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This is the film that Snakes on a Plane wanted to be.

This is a film that Joe Bob Briggs would love.

This is a film that practically defines the term "guilty pleasure," with extra emphasis on the guilty part.

Okay, follow this...The original Piranha, a film from 1978, was a spoof of the highly successful Jaws and was directed by Joe Dante and scripted by John Sayles. The 1981 semi-sequel was directed by none other than James Cameron. Nearly 30 years later, Piranha 3-D features a quick but memorable appearance by Jaws alum Richard Dreyfuss in a rather delightful spin on his career-making performance in that Spielberg flick.

Got it?

Piranha 3-D is directed by Alexandre Aja, who also gave us the remake of The Hills Have Eyes, and somehow manages to intertwine to near perfection Aja's tendency towards extreme gore and T&A with a rather surprising amount of reverence for the film's source material and cinematic history.

Piranha 3-D is bloody, gory, relentless, filled to the brim with young and nubile flesh and, most surprisingly of all, the film is an unapologetic, gleeful and joyous celebration of campy horror meets CGI wonderland.

The film opens with a spot-on perfect Richard Dreyfuss both mocking and paying tribute to his similarly fated Jaws performance, a delightful weaving together of the two films with a wealth of accurate detail in production design and dialogue that will leave Jaws fans with a smirky grin of familiarity as it all unfolds.

From there, the story is remarkably familiar yet equally remarkable in just how well Aja and his ensemble cast manage to nail the perfect tone to leave anyone with an appreciation for horror smiling, occasionally laughing and deeply appreciative for the rare horror flick that manages to get it right.

Elisabeth Shue is the town sheriff (Isn't there always one in these flicks?), who leaves her son (Steven R. McQueen, grandson of the late great Steve McQueen) watching his siblings while she investigates mysteriously bloodied water. Not surprisingly, he gets distracted when his best bud (Jerry O'Connell), joined by model Kelly Brook, recruits him and his almost girlfriend (Jessica Szohr) to help out with a sort of "Girls Gone Wild" type video shoot that is simply too good to pass up.

You do know where this is going, right?

The basic set-up involves an earthquake resulting in the mass releasing of what amounts to an army of prehistoric kick-ass piranha who wreak havoc on the video shoot as piranha apparently go about as gaga as your average teen male over bikini-clad women.  The majority of the time the piranha win.

While the majority of horror flicks that would inflict such graphic violence would come off simply as relentlessly violent and evil, Piranha 3-D maintains enough of the B-movie spirits of its predecessors that it often plays more like a Troma flick or a Roger Corman experience with its almost lighthearted approach to everything that goes on here.

Piranha 3-D feels like its the kind of film that Lloyd Kaufman and the folks at Troma would make if their films were to have larger budgets, films that capture that spirit and artistry of a B-movie but up the production quality simply because they can.

It's almost foolish to even mention the performances here, except for it being vital to acknowledge that everyone in this ensemble cast seems to understand completely what's going on here. Richard Dreyfuss has an irreverent sparkle in his eyes, while Elisabeth Shue is equal parts Roy Scheider and Samuel L. Jackson.


The conceited aura that is Jerry O'Connell is perfect for his turn here as a sort of amateur porn producer, while Ving Rhames does what Ving Rhames always does in this kind of role.

Hey, it works.

A brief appearance by Eli Roth is a hoot, while Christopher Lloyd (The Back to the Future guy NOT the Indy film critic) is freakishly and hilariously over-the-top as an ichthylogist trying to make sense of everything that's going on.

The 3-D effects in Piranha 3-D are a post-production afterthought, mostly out of budgetary constraints, and the film can easily be as appreciated in 2-D as it is in its full glory unless you simply have the overwhelming urge to experience the piranhas or the boobies "in your face."

There isn't much more to say about Piranha 3-D, and it should be fairly obvious by a glimpse of the film's movie poster or trailer whether or not it's a film that will float your capsized boat. Those with no appreciation for horror and/or no tolerance for your standard B-movie would do well to stay away from the film. On the other hand, one could easily suspect that both fans of horror and campy 70's B-movie classics will find much to enjoy here.

It seems almost redundant, actually it is redundant, to rate a B-movie a "B" grade. However, Piranha 3-D practically defines what it means to be a "good" movie in its difficult to nail sub-genre of horror. There's no denying the film is flawed, but with Aja's ability to mix horror in with cinematic history, Piranha 3-D is one movie that gorehounds can really sink their teeth into.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic