Review: John Gulager's 'Piranha 3DD' is All Absurd Trash and No Fun
by Jeremy Kirk
June 2, 2012
There's only so much you can do with the Piranha franchise. It wasn't exactly rocket science to begin with, but 2009's Piranha 3D still ended up a scuzzy but entertaining gorefest. It wasn't so awful you couldn't have a good time with it, and additions like Christopher Lloyd's insane biologist and the opening nod to Jaws were actually noteworthy. The only direction to go from there is even bigger, which is what you might expect from something calling itself Piranha 3DD. Unfortunately, this follow-up doesn't go bigger — at least, not where it counts — and relies on being cheaper and scuzzier to pull off its thrills, none of which work.
This time around, the prehistoric fishes have moved from a lake bustling with half-naked coeds who are just looking for a good time to a water park bustling with half-naked coeds who are just looking for a good time. The owner (David Koechner) of this particular water park, aptly named The Big Wet, has decided to make it a T&A show through-and-through, hiring strippers as the life guards, setting up cameras on the ladders, and a cordoned off "nude bar" area. It's the perfect place for Spring Break promiscuity. You know, if man-eating fish from the nearby water supply haven't found their way into the pipes. Before you can say "Hey, idiot, get out of the pool," teens are getting ripped apart left and right, no one wants to listen to the owner's daughter (Danielle Panabaker), who also happens to be a marine biologist, and David Hasselhoff, playing himself, has already run through three, slo-mo shots. It's pretty much anarchy in here.
But you can't expect much different from director John Gulager and screenwriters Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan. After the three collaborated for the more enjoyable than it deserved to be Feast, they traipsed through the sequel garbage that was Feast II: Sloppy Seconds and Feast III: The Happy Finish. The subtitles on those say it all. There's no denying the three have a definite style when they work together. It's a style consisting of unlikable characters, grotesque imagery usually played for belly laughs, and a notion of not playing by anyone's rules. The rule-bending would be appreciated if those other, two items provided anything close to resembling enjoyable entertainment. They don't.
What we're left with is a mindset that seeing incredibly fake breasts bounce in slow motion is funny, that watching a man hack off his... you know... because a strange creature has latched onto it is thrilling, or that the mere presence of Hasselhoff may lead to a feeling of schadenfreude. You get the feeling they thought they had struck gold when the former "Knight Rider" and "Baywatch" star agreed to play himself here, but when he mutters "You've hit rock bottom" to himself as he arrives at the water park — the actor has been brought in to help kick off the park's grand opening — you wonder if that wasn't a candid moment of self reflection Gulager has captured. Hasselhoff gets more screen time than the fish, which, considering how poorly executed the effects are on the little monsters, ends up being a blessing in disguise.
Rather than harp for 1000 words on the horrible things Piranha 3DD does, it might be simpler to point out the one or two things the film pulls off well. They're really just things Piranha 3D did well that get copied and pasted over here, but beggars can't be choosers. The five minutes Christopher Lloyd spends reprising his wackadoo role as the piranha-infatuated biologist are entertaining enough. Just watching the man play and speak in his familiar, crazed scientist mannerisms provides escapism enough from the rest of a horrid film, even if for such a minuscule amount of time.
Also reprising roles are Ving Rhames, whose Deputy Fallon only lost his legs in the previous film, and Paul Scheer as Andrew, whose death scene in Piranha 3D was fortunately cut and returns here as Fallon's caretaker. No, it doesn't make sense. Just go with it. The two minutes the actors spend trying to get Fallon back in the water is funny but fleeting, particularly from Rhames who makes the character's fear/anger at the water the most genuine aspect to the movie. Once his shotgun legs come out, though, the dime-store effectiveness of the film as a whole kicks back into your attention. Also the less said about Gary Busey's cameo in the film's opening moments the better.
It's not easy to wade in the kiddie pool of positive things Piranha 3DD offers. At least, it doesn't take long to do a lap around it. The ocean of problems that abound in this film takes over and drowns out anything that could have been salvaged. Gulager seems to make sure every frame of his film is loaded with crass nudity, appalling debauchery, and/or David Hasselhoff, so that the trademark look is unquestionably his. It isn't a grotesqueness that hardcore fans of guts and gore can even get behind or be affected by. It all flops out and splatters on the concrete with nary an interesting thud in earshot. It's the kind of film making where you know the people behind it think they're pushing the envelope, but it just makes you go "Really?". At least we can pinpoint a John Gulager film from only a few seconds watching it. The better to avoid them with, which is exactly what should be done in regards to Piranha 3DD.
Jeremy's Rating: 2 out of 10 (Christopher Lloyd deserves a point)