Piranha 3D ends the summer on a note of shamelessly entertaining B movie bottomfeeding. Man-eating fish, blood everywhere, full frontal nudity, girl-on-girl action, a hard R rating, tacky 3D added after the fact, actors who look like they want to kill their agents, and a chance to laugh at everything in sight. Watch for the dismembered penis that becomes fish food. What more do you want out of an August popcorn movie? Piranha 3D doesn’t pretend to be anything more than what it is: a trash wallow dished out by a talented filmmaker, Alexandre Aja (High Tension, The Hills Have Eyes), who knows he’s slumming and loving it. It’s Jaws without the art. The movie starts with Jaws star Richard Dreyfuss in a row boat drunkenly singing “Show Me the Way To Go Home” just before piranhas chew up his Oscar-winning ass. Aja tips his hat to Steven Spielberg and then it’s off to the low-rent races. Plot? Think Jersey Shore with underwater cannibalism.
It’s spring break time at the fictional Lake Victoria (Lake Havasu, Arizona stands in.). Elisabeth Shue plays the sheriff in charge of keeping the kids from drowning in too much sex, drugs and rock & roll. Her son, young Vampire Diaries hunk Steven R. McQueen (Bullit’s grandson), has the hots for Gossip Girl cutie Jessica Szohr. But when he hires on to help Jerry O’Connell, playing a clone of Girls Gone Wild honcho Joe Francis, get some sexy boob footage, he gets more than he bargained for.
So does everyone in the cast, including Christopher Lloyd as a (what else?) mad scientist, Ving Rhames as a deputy and Eli Roth as the ringmaster of a wet t-shirt contest. No one really acts, including the fish who demonstrate the hazards of cheap CGI. But Aja has a fluid camera and uses it well, along with sound that gooses the thrills at every turn. In 1978, Joe Dante directed his own take on Piranha with a sharply satirical script by indie king John Sayles. Three years later, the Avatar man himself, James Cameron, had a go with Piranha Part Two: The Spawning. No one bit. Aja finds just the right tone of go-for-broke gore and giggles. Piranha 3D doesn’t experience even an accidental brush with quality. But studio crap has rarely smelled so sweet.