Tuesday, January 8, 2013

We're Gonna Need a Bigger Pair of Glasses

You know what's awesome? Sharks. You know what some moviegoers seem to think is really awesome? Paying $5 extra to wear glasses during a movie. 


Jaws 3D is about sharks (which is awesome) and was heavily touted as showing them in 3D (which some people think is awesome). 

Let us evaluate now.

Quick Plot: Mike Brody (Dennis Quaid), New England's favorite sheriff's eldest, works at SeaWorld with his biologist girlfriend Kathryn (played by My So-Called Life mom Bess Armstrong with intelligent pluck). Younger water-phobe bro Sean comes to visit/flirt with Lea Thompson's water skiing princess right about the same time a Great White sneaks his way into the theme park, much to the denial of Louis Gossett Jr.'s priority jumbled boss.

Directed by Jaws (and its first sequel)'s production designer Joe Alves, Jaws 3(D) is fairly infamous for its use and abuse of 3D, that oft-loved gimmick that was making its first big comeback in the early '80s. With a screenplay that had clearly seen its share of white-out and second drafts (including one that was penned by Richard Matheson), Jaws 3(D) was never going to be a boat-rocking classic like its original. Watching it 29 years after its fairly ill-fated premiere, the real question I had was if it fell into the sequel camp of 2's okay-ish blandness or 4's hilarious badness.

Not surprisingly, Jaws 3(D) falls somewhere in between. The cast, as you've probably realized, is loaded with before-they-were-semi-famous stars and all of them know how to sell a mediocre scene, even when the writing is duller than a Fisher Price knife. There's even some successful character-based humor in Sean's water fears and plenty of warmth in Kathryn's relationship with SeaWorld's stars of the '80s, Sandy & Cindy and--get THIS--SHAMOO!

At the same time, we're treated to about twenty three conversations between Kathryn and Mike where they worry about their future, since he's been offered a job in South America and she has six months left on her contract plus an opportunity to--

What, am I boring you? How do you think I felt? I'm the one who had to sit through that conversation. 90,000 times.

See, Jaws 3(D), like many a big budget summer blockbuster hopeful, is hampered by a lazy and probably very rushed screenplay. It's great to have a respectable romance at your center, but when every scene with your leads ends with a pro and con list about their career plans, you can't really expect the popcorn crowd to swoon.

That of course leaves the thrill of Jaws 3(D) in the busy hands of its technology, which next to the dolphins and Shamoo, is easily the most adorable aspect of the film. In the first of VERY FEW shark attacks, Jaws 3(D) almost fools you into thinking you're getting some actual suspense and scares, only to reward high ticket price payers with a gleefully hilarious in yo' FACE shot of a severed arm, menacingly floating towards your imaged red and black lenses. Other 3D shots include a syringe squirting at you, a statue that's, well, a statue, a head (yes, it belongs to the same torso as the aforementioned arm only it gets to surprise a gaggle of happy tourists) and a POV shot from inside the shark's throat. That one's more weird than cute, but I give the film credit for trying.

The most fascinating aspect of Jaws 3(D) comes from its apparent corporate sponsorship. SeaWorld was clearly heavily involved in the filming, supplying some mammal co-stars and its name brand. But consider this: the main plot of Jaws 3(D) hinges on the fact that a 35' long Great White is loose inside a theme park, the kind of theme park families pay hundreds of dollars to tour on vacation. What this means is that SeaWorld has incredibly questionable construction and safety. 

Which means SeaWorld put its name and face (and dolphins' faces) on a movie that might very well be the most damning ad campaign imaginable. The equivalent would be something like Roller Coaster taking place at Great Adventure or WestWorld being recast with Mickey Mouse in the Yul Brynner role. 

I know: I want that movie too.

High Points
Kudos to any blockbuster for including a smart, brave, and quick-thinking career-minded woman as its heroine

Low Points
The final body count, SPOILER ALERT, is an all-mighty but unlucky-in-Asia 4. Four. Quatro. FOUR. This displeases me, especially when you keep setting up mob scenes in the water as a 35 FOOT LONG SHARK SWIMS BY ON AN EMPTY STOMACH

Lessons Learned
Beware the fat man in the bumper boat

Dolphins are way smarter than mere humans, even PHDs with veterinary degrees

If you love someone, you will never, ever never, take them on vacation to SeaWorld

Stray Observatiuon
Bella Swan, eat my Neosporin! In terms of who the clumsiest character in cinema history might be, I'm giving the edge to the hilariously bull-in-china-shop-that-is-a-beach Mike Brody. The man almost makes me look graceful, and I once slipped on a banana peel and cut my finger on sour cream 

Well, Jaws 3(D) isn't actually close to being good, but it's enjoyable in a super '80s way that certainly has its charms. Think of it as a nice summer popsicle when you're not really hungry, but require mild nourishment.  


  1. The body count is only 4?! *head explodes* Santa killed more people than that in Goodbye, 20th Century! But then again, he might have destroyed the whole world, a feat even the roaring shark who can locate random people wherever they go in the world would be hard presed to do!

    It's funny that the people behind Jaws: The Revenge were quick to pretend that this entry doesn't exist, yet their movie was a million times worse than Jaws 3(D) ever was!

  2. If you had seen this in the movie theater(in 3D) when you were 13 like me, you would have loved it. Styrofoam shark and all. :)

  3. I need to watch Jaws: The Revenge. I've seen bits of it here and there, but I've never sat myself in lockdown and plowed through. I owe it to Michael Caine.

    And Kevin, I'm jealous. If they showed Jaws 3D on the big screen TODAY I would probably love it!

  4. The best part of this movie (other than Louis Gossett Jr saying "The damn shark's mutha!?!"), is watching the tour guide in the Undersea Kingdom basically paw one of the tourists throughout every scene after the tunnel floods. If you watch those scenes again, you'll notice that the guy in the flannel shirt keeps getting what amounts to a groping from this park employee, even though there are other people there for her to comfort.

    Never mind the family trauma caused by the numerous shark sightings or the cases of post traumatic stress your children will face having seen a shark die before their very eyes, I smell a sexual harassment lawsuit in this park's future.

    It's really no wonder that guy was first to exit the tunnel after the water receded. He's heading off to his lawyer.

    Chris (No overtiiiimmmeee!!!!)

  5. Damnit, now I need to watch this movie AGAIN!

  6. The real shame about this movie is that they didn't keep the original title (from when Joe Dante was going to direct it):

    Jaws 3 People 0

  7. SERIOUSLY?!!! That is simply amazing. WAYYYYYY better than Snakes On a Plane!

    Now I hope they make a Jaws 5 just to reuse that!