Piranha 3DD (2012) / Horror-Comedy
MPAA rated: R for strong bloody gore, violence, graphic nudity, sexual content, language and some drug use
Running time: 83 min.
Cast: Danielle Panabaker, Matt Bush, David Koechner, Chris Zylka, David Hasselhoff, Jean-Luc Bilodeau, Katrina Bowden, Christopher Lloyd, Ving Rhames, Adrian Martinez, Paul James Jordan, Meagan Tandy, Paul Scheer, Gary Busey, Clu Gulager
Director: John Gulager
Screenplay: Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan, Joel Soisson
Summing up Piranha 3DD to whether audiences will enjoy it or not will likely come down to the reasons why you liked (or didn't like) the first entry, Piranha 3D. If you primarily liked 3D because of the high level of gore and violence, you're going to come away sorely disappointed. Not that there isn't gore, but that it mostly flinches from actually showing much of it on the screen like its predecessor, which tended to wallow luxuriously in it. If you liked the short appearances by various celebrities, or the T&A quotient, you'll like the sequel, which gives you much more of these, in larger doses. Basically, if you like your horror gross and sticky, this sequel isn't about that. It just wants to titillate through some rude, crude, or lewd humor with a few moments of horror interspersed throughout a traditional teen sex comedy.
The prologue of the film introduces the fact that the prehistoric piranha from the previous story are not quite all gone, with Gary Busey (Slap Shot 2) and Clu Gulager (Tapeheads), who happens to be the father of this film's director, John Gulager (Feast, Feast II), coming across the migration much to their dismay and eventual demise. The setting moves from Lake Victoria of the first film to an Arizonan water park set to for a grand opening not far away. From there, a graduate student of marine biology (Panabaker, Mr. Brooks) discovers her slime-ball stepfather Chet (Koechner, Get Smart), owner of the water park that has been in the family for decades, is planning of converting the park to provide adult entertainment in the form of strippers as topless lifeguards, among other tawdry delights. He also tries to cut a few corners by dipping into a massive private well as a source of water for the establishment, a well that happens to be chock full of deadly prehistoric piranha.
Director John Gulager just doesn't have the perversity of previous director Aja's audaciously stylish presentation. He sees the gore as merely goods that must be delivered, rather than something you should bask in without shame. In fact, while the opportunities for piranha attacks present themselves early and often, most of the time, the would-be victims manage to escape attack just in the nick of time. These piranha swim mighty fast, so we're left wondering just how the rather encumbered waders could ever get their bodies completely out of the water when they were just shown within feet of swarming fish, but it's that kind of movie. The piranha are shown with the ability to smash through metal and launch themselves out of the water, but only when the story appears to necessitate it happening.
It's mostly throwaway material, but not without its own goofy charm that will likely win over some audiences of bad movies who aren't too jaded by the lack of blood and graphic carnage. Perhaps the best parts of the film involve the roles for the name stars, such as the egotism of David Hasselhoff (Click, Dodgeball) hamming up his public persona, and a reappearance of an unbilled Ving Rhames (MI4, Surrogates), now without use of his legs from the attack of the previous film, wreaking havoc on the fish in another bout of unadulterated slaughter. Add these to a prolonged cameo by returning thespian Christopher Lloyd (Interstate 60, Convergence) and one easily sees that the modest star power is really the shot in the arm that provides whatever modicum of entertainment value that the movie as a whole provides.
If you make it to the finale, don't tune out too soon. The end credits of the film feature some bloopers and some funny extra scenes of Hasselhoff having fun with his music video antics and overly emotive bravado.
©2012 Vince Leo