Elisabeth Shue (Leaving Las Vegas, Hollow Man) is an Oscar-winning actress and rarely performs in films anymore. So what the hell would get someone like her to not only agree to appear in a tawdry remake of an already tawdry film from the '70s but be the star of it too?!!? Probably the same thing that got Ving Rhames (Pulp Fiction, Dawn of the Dead), Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future series, Clue), Jerry O'Connell (Jerry Maguire, Scream 2) and Richard Dreyfuss (W., Close Encounters of the Third Kind), who not only show up in the film but reprise his amazing role of Matt Hooper from Jaws, to agree to be in it! I'm still not really sure what that something was though. Could it be gobs of money that was thrown at them? Doubtful. Maybe the naked women that run 50-yards-deep in some scenes for the film? Eh, I think they're above that. Or was it the chance to work with skilled French horror director Alexandre Aja (High Tension, The Hills Have Eyes) on something that was made to purely be a good time at the movies and nothing more? Probably that. Piranha 3D is a throwback to when horror films were full of cheap scares, lots of boobs and buckets of blood. If that's all you want to see, then you won't be disappointed one bit. If there isn't a frame of this film that doesn't have naked women, shredded flesh or both in it, then it's showing off with some kind of campy, overt 3D effect. What's enjoyable about the film though is the level of commitment the actors give the characters. They sink their teeth (no pun intended) into the roles and don't over-play them but don't make you feel like they're coasting through it either. It's almost like a comedy duo where the actors are the "straight guy" and the film itself is the "funny guy." They're in on the joke but know the joke would be over if they didn't make you almost believe they didn't know it was funny. The gory violence comes on quick and once it does, the screen runs red with so much carnage that I can't remember when a film last delivered a comparable level. The pinnacle of the Piranha 3D is when the thousands of fish feast on the hundreds of college Spring Breakers in an orgy of chaos that is so excessive in not only violence but also scale and performances by all the scantily clad extras, that you can't help but to laugh at the thought of how much fun it must have been to film. However, as delightfully awful as that scene is, the movie lacks something. When a film intentionally sets out to be a cult classic, it's very difficult for it to stick that landing with A+ precision. Although the film is meant to be stupid and silly, if there's nothing to make people want to see it again, you don't get a cult film...you get something stupid and silly. A cult classic has to be something that's so much fun to watch it keeps you coming back for more and compels you to show all your friends. Piranha 3D wasn't that, but it gave a fair attempt. But I have a feeling that it's going to lose even more "cult" quality when it moves to DVD and has to be viewed without the 3D gimmick. Because seeing a piranha devour a human penis and then burp it back up just isn't the same in 2D.
Piranha 3D (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: B-