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‘Piranha 3DD’ Review

Piranha 3DD
Dimension Films

Though its title suggests new heights of outlandish comic gore (and bust sizes), ‘Piranha 3DD‘ feels awfully small in comparison with its predecessors: lamer jokes, lamer kills, lamer celebrity cameos. The 2010 remake of ‘Piranha,’ like the 1978 original, was a cheeky spoof of ‘Jaws.’

Its new sequel, ‘Piranha 3DD,’ is more of a low-rent ripoff of ‘Jaws 3D’ where bloodthirsty aquatic critters worm their way into a water park to chow on the guests (and shove their mugs in the camera lens). ’3DD’ is less of a parody of an exploitation movie than a straight exploitation movie with a few comic scenes. The fish are still biting, but otherwise the material is a lot less sharp.

At “The Big Wet” water park in Arizona, a craven amusement park owner named Chet (David Koechner) prepares for the start of summer. Maddy (Danielle Panabaker), his step-daughter, marine biology student, and co-owner of the park (movies!), is not pleased with the way her partner’s smutted up the place, including the addition of the world’s first strip bar in a water park (movies!!) I side with Chet on this one — clearly, the man is a pioneer, not to mention a fashion plate (Koechner’s frat boy wardrobe, all of it way too small for Koechner’s prodigious gut, is the funniest recurring joke). But killjoy Maddy doesn’t approve — and she’s equally displeased to discover that the piranhas that recently plagued a spring break hotspot have found their way to The Big Wet, and are massing in the nearby lake used to fill the park’s pools (Movies!!!).

As you can see, the film is not without a sense of humor. A particularly fruitful sequence sees a high-strung teen (Katrina Bowden) give birth to a baby piranha while losing her virginity. “Josh cut off his penis because something came out of my vagina!” she cries, proving there are still new ways to use the English language after all these thousands of years.

David Hasslehoff has a few cute moments playing himself as a drunken, self-obsessed jerk, and it’s nice to see Ving Rhames back as a cop who lost his legs in the previous ‘Piranha.’ This time around, his disabled deputy is gripped by a fear of water, a phobia he attempts to overcome with the help of another returning ‘Piranha’ cast member, Paul Scheer. The characters’ presence makes absolutely no sense — they have no reason to be at this water park and they have no reason to be there together since the two had no connection in the last film — but it does give Ving Rhames the opportunity to howl “I’m not afraid of some punk ass water!” which more than justifies the scene’s existence.

Beyond those bright spots the film is pretty much your stock, teenagers-in-peril gorefest. The previous ‘Piranha’ was mostly a movie about adults: Rhames and Scheer, plus Elisabeth Shue, Adam Scott, and Jerry O’Connell, with the kids left in the background as cannon fodder for the jokes and the kills. This time they’re the stars — and the biggest problem. Their storylines are all painfully dully. Panabaker has to choose between two potential suitors — Barry (Matt Bush) and Kyle (Chris Zylka) — which is a particularly tough decision since they’re both interchangeable hardbodied mimbos. Bowden wants to have sex for the first time, but that’s really hard when you’re also dealing with the whole baby piranha in the stomach thing. Even during the bloody finale, ‘Piranha 3DD’ has about as much narrative momentum (and, I suppose, about as many slicked female breasts) as a wet T-shirt contest.

’3DD’ was directed by John Gulager, the winner of the final ‘Project Greenlight’ and the son of actor Clu Gulager, who pops up as one of the two celebs offed by the piranhas in the pre-credits sequence (Gary Busey is the other). Gulager knows his way around a man-eating fish, but his work in the scenes that don’t involve a body count feels a lot less confident. The elder Gulager and Busey play fishermen who find a dead cow farting out piranha eggs (MOVIES!!!!). Angling for a closer look they pull out a lighter which, of course, ignites the cow’s flatulence and causes an enormous explosion. That’s right: an explosive cow fart. I could sit here for the rest of eternity and I would never come up with a more perfect metaphor for the quality of this movie.Rating Meter 4

‘Piranha 3DD′ is in theaters and available on VOD now.

Matt Singer is a Webby award winning writer and podcaster. He currently runs the Criticwire blog on Indiewire and co-hosts the Filmspotting: Streaming Video Unit podcast. His criticism has appeared in the pages of The Village Voice and Time Out New York and on ‘Ebert Presents at the Movies.’ He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, dog, and a prop sword from the movie ‘Gymkata.’

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