Disclaimer: Although the term “douchebag” is generally accepted as referring to a person of the male gender, for the purposes of this review it will apply to both men and women.
I’m not entirely certain that Piranha 3D is a good movie, strictly speaking. It’s dumb, but in a very clever way – it never pretends to be anything other than what it is, a vehicle to get as much blood, boobs, and beasts in your face (3D!!!) as possible. And for that you’ve got to love it.
All is well at the desert oasis of Lake Victoria (actually Lake Havasu in Arizona). Until an earthquake opens a fissure in the lake’s bottom and out come a bunch of nasty piranha. They’re hungry and pissed, as one local fisherman learns.
The piranhas are actually the second horde of monstrous creatures to invade the lake. Because it’s Spring Break and the place is jammed with horny, obnoxious, drunk college students. So far the local sheriff (Elisabeth Shue playing the one character in the film who is not terminally stupid) and her deputy (Ving Rhames, whose bad-assery makes up for his character’s stupidity) are keeping things in check. But the sheriff’s son, who’s supposed to be babysitting his younger siblings, is instead hanging around with sleazy horndog Derrick (Jerry “the fat kid from Stand by Me” O’Connell, not playing that “Girls Gone Wild” fellow at all, no sir) on the S. S. Tits Ahoy. Soon all the sheriff’s kids are in peril, Derrick’s douchebaggery has reached epic proportions (putting even more people in danger) and the piranha have arrived at Spring Break Central just in time for the Wet T-Shirt Contest.
Which brings us to the film’s gory highlight: DOUCHEBAG SMORGASBORD!!! IN 3D!!!
Finally, finally, someone realized that while CGI does many things well, it simply cannot simulate gory violence. It doesn’t look organic enough, and CGI blood ends up looking like those oil droplet knickknacks you used to see a lot in the 1970s. The effects during the douchebag smorgasbord scene are practical, plentiful, and effective. At times they’re too effective, and the film’s tone, which has been cheerfully stupid up to this point, veers into the grotesque. (How this thing got away with an R is beyond me.) Fortunately there’s still a rescue-the-kids sequence that brings the film back on balance.
Piranha 3D could have been a disaster. Luckily for us, director Alexandre Aja is quite skilled, and (as anyone who saw High Tension or his The Hills Have Eyes remake can attest) is unconcerned with things such as good taste. Aja knows exactly what the audience wants to see – piranhas eating douchebags, and lots of it. He gives us that. Aja also knows that American cinema has had a dearth of screen nudity in recent years, and he gives us boobs, more boobs, and yet still more boobs (in 3D!!!). Also a naked underwater ballet to class things up.
Aja also has a fine cast that all hit exactly the right note. Shue is good as the beleaguered lawwoman (and the intelligent eye of Hurricane Stupid). Rhames isn’t on screen nearly enough. Christopher Lloyd steals his two scenes as a local marine expert who identifies the Piranhasaurus Rex. O’Connell makes his sleazebag character someone you want to see die from his first appearance. And yes, that’s Eli Roth as the Wet T-shirt Contest MC.
As for the 3D, I’ll confess that I am not on board with the whole 3D trend. The glasses give me a headache and just because a movie CAN be done with 3D effects doesn’t mean it SHOULD be. Piranha is an exception, though, because it understands that for this film, the aesthetics don’t matter – it’s about putting boobs, blood, body parts, and other things in your face. I don’t really know enough about 3D to say how well the effects were done, but I did appreciate them sort of as a gore-and-nudity update of the 3D paddle-ball gag in House of Wax (the Vincent Price one, not the Paris Hilton one, you philistines).
If the prospect of seeing lots of stupid people dying in horrible ways (and lots of boobs) makes you sit up and take notice, by all means get yourself to the theater and see Piranha 3D.