Movie Review :: Shark Night 3D (2011) (PG-13)

Shark Night 3D is flimsy, boring, and stupid – a film so intrinsically misguided that it’s a wonder why anyone thought it would work. Resist any temptation to compare it to Jaws. For that matter, avoid referencing last year’s Piranha 3D; with its over-the-top gore and relentless exploitation of breasts, it at least had the decency to go all out. This movie is caught in a dead zone between serious horror and campy humor, so ultimately, neither potential audience is likely to get much out of it. Gore hounds and fans of female nudity will immediately be put off by the film’s PG-13 rating. If I remember correctly, the sharks bleed more than the victims, and the only naked rear end we see belongs to a guy. Just about the only thing it gets away with is the 3D, and even then, it’s mostly limited to the underwater shots, which were surprisingly immersive.

It features seven college students who spend the weekend vacationing at a summer house near Louisiana’s Lake Pontchartrain. They’re so badly written that they don’t even rise to the level of stereotypes. There’s Nick (Dustin Milligan), a pre-med student too timid to say how he really feels about Sara (Sara Paxton), the girl whose family owns the summer house. There’s Nick’s friend, Maliki (Sinqua Walls), who’s madly in love with girlfriend, Maya (Alyssa Diaz), and plans on popping the question to her on the trip. There’s the narcissistic blonde hunk Blake (Chris Zylka) and Sara’s friend, the tattooed Beth (Katharine McPhee). We suspect she’s the slutty type, although the most provocative thing she does is drop her drawers and sit on a toilet. Finally, there’s the annoying video game slacker Gordon (Joel David Moore), who spends most of his time insulting Nick for not having a girlfriend.

The plot: The weekend’s festivities are rudely interrupted when Maliki’s arm is bitten off while water skiing. They all quickly realize that the monster responsible for this was a shark. A shark? In the middle of a lake? Well, it is, after all, a saltwater lake, and it’s certainly possible that a couple of them slipped in from the Gulf during the last hurricane season. Of course. As Nick frantically tries to get Maliki medical attention, many of the characters inexplicably split up, resulting in even more deaths. It isn’t long before a heartbroken Maliki vows revenge on the shark; in due time, he marches back into the water armed with a makeshift harpoon. I honestly didn’t know whether to laugh hysterically or cry at the thought of the $14.50 I spent on my ticket.

In due time, Sara’s past comes back to haunt her. Here enters three evil hillbillies, one of whom was her ex-boyfriend, Dennis (Chris Carmack). Dennis’ friend (Joshua Leonard) not only has the distinctive drawl, but also the shaggy beard and teeth filed to rotten points. His name is Red. Well, shut my mouth and call me Bubba – a Southern character named Red! There’s also the local sheriff (Donal Logue), who at one point is too involved in his imaginary drum solo to notice the flare that was shot into the night sky. Paxton takes part in several hilariously unconvincing scenes. The ones with Milligan are so emotionally clunky, it’s almost as if they forgot they were in a horror comedy and believed their roles should be taken seriously. The ones with Carmack essentially suffer from the same problem; even when Sara has been kidnapped and locked in a shark cage, she tries to engage Dennis in a dialogue to work out their issues.

Rest assured, there is a reason the sharks are in the lake. Out of decency, I will not divulge it. I will say that, apart from it being monumentally implausible, it involves an imaginary genre movement that walks a very, very fine line between satire and cruelty. It’s hard for me to imagine that anything even remotely satirical crossed the minds of screenwriters Will Hayes and Jesse Studenberg. This is not a film that shames characters or beliefs with the intent of improving society. If anything, the filmmakers are shaming themselves, and that’s really saying something given how many of them contributed to it. I found this out by staying for the end credits. Amazing, the work that went into this movie.

After the end credits, you’ll be treated to a rap music video performed by the cast. Embarrassing is not a big enough word to describe it. Someone should have told these people that they’re actors, not rappers, and as such, they should never have tried to be something they so clearly were not. Perhaps the powers that be at the studio knew this, and so they stuck it at the tail end. All I know is that, like the title fish, Shark Night 3D bites. Perhaps director David R. Ellis should have been allowed to retain his preferred title, Untitled 3D Shark Thriller. At least then, audiences would have an idea of how low the standards had been set. What, you think I’m joking? He discussed it in an interview with Bloody Disgusting. Go look it up yourself, if you don’t believe me.


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