Monday, September 08, 2008


Some days, things just go right. You know what I mean? Well, when I plugged this movie into the player, I suddenly found myself having one of those days. Why? Because the featherless bipeds who committed this film to digital format were having a really, really, REALLY off day when this movie was made. And I like that.

>>I knew I was in for it right away when I saw the promo illustration of two people underwater, with an immense Great White bearing down on them, firing pistols. I mean the humans had the pistols, not the Shark. Oh, you know what I mean. THIS SORT OF IMAGERY IS ALWAYS A SIGN OF QUALITY. Point: pistols do not work underwater. Point: even if they did, you would pretty much aim the pistol at the Shark, not in the opposite direction. The humans look as if they were laying down covering fire for the Shark coming up behind them. Point: Sharks -- particularly Great Whites -- do not need this sort of puny human weapons support. Point: As I said, it was an illustration, not a still from the movie. This usually means that no such thing happened at any point in the story. In fact, it did happen, but somebody couldn't countenance having live-action humans upstaging computer-generated cartoon Sharks, so they drew something up instead.
>> Yes, ladies -- even before the movie starts, when we're just looking at the display box, there are THIS MANY THINGS WRONG.

>> In fact, the CGI Sharks are NOT being upstaged by the Naked Ape actors. I have to say it's the other way around. And that is an astounding statement to have to make, any day of the week. I never thought this day would come.

>> To be fair, this movie boasts an unusually good job of computer animation. It's no Jurassic Park, but still. The crew didn't quite manage to overcome the unnaturally shiny skin one usually gets in faux movie Sharks, but only one of them looked transparent AT ALL, and it was a very brief moment indeed. The stars move very naturally, which as far as I'm concerned is a major breakthrough. They do swim a leetle too fast. But then these are supposed to be turbo-Sharks, not the regular kind. This animation is as far beyond Red Water, I'm not coming up with a good analogue here. Trust me, this is way better. And no Coolio! Let me tell you, it's got to be BAD ENOUGH being a transparent, bright-orange, stiff-as-a-board animated Bullshark. Having to face down Coolio and his upside-down 9 mm is just ADDING INSULT TO INJURY.

>> Speaking of human actors, the names in this one are surprisingly well-known. John Schneider, so puffy and dissipated I hardly recognized him! Darryl Hannah, looking throughout the film as if she'd slept on a park bench, then gotten dressed in the dark! Armand Assante, looking entirely hung-over, as the Bad Guy In Chief! F. Murray Abraham, fresh as a daisy in contrast to the others, playing Exposition Guy! At one point in the movie Abraham says to a co-worker: "I LOVE my job." He must. Nobody else raises such a convincing smile in the whole course of the film, even the simpering Teen Love Interests who have choppers to rival those on the stars of the film, for crying out loud.

>> One rather wonders what the wardrobe mistress was thinking. Several characters, particularly the ones we're intended to think of as gorgeous, seem not to change their clothes day after day. In one scene, Schneider (the Hero Type Guy) wakes up to find Hannah (the Plucky Heroine) primping in the bathroom mirror, having thrown a much-too-small corduroy jacket over a rumpled, ratty white-lace nightie styled like a maternity top. The nightie is far too short and flouncy for a woman her age. I thought they were trying to be grittily realistic here, showing how a couple married for 20 years can find each other attractive no matter what. Imagine my surprise when she proceeded to wear this outfit to a town meeting! With cowboy boots!

>> This film is actually full of surprises from the first frame to the last. F. Murray Abraham startled a laugh out of me when he introduced himself as "Professor Bill Girdler." At one point, Schneider hauls himself and his wife out of cartoon Shark-infested waters, and they crouch in a corner of the Totally Evil, Gas-Guzzling Yacht to develop a plan before the Totally Evil Yacht Owners can find and kill them. They both get up to leave, and we see instantly that their clothes are miraculously dry...and pressed.

>> At another tense moment, the Daring EPA Agent, who falls into the sea in pitch darkness while snooping around the old power plant, ducks her head under the surface to check for danger. We notice immediately that somebody has considerately turned the underwater lights on so she can see all 38 Hammerheads streaking hungrily in her direction. She comes up to the surface, and it's pitch dark again. Good times, I tell you!

>>The best surprise of all was "Pastor Herman," the EOD minister. Dear Cod, with a pod of ravenous Sharks eating his congregation left, right and center, what does the guy do? He trots the survivors out into the water, getting his gown all wet, so they can all join hands and praise the oceanic deity! The factor that makes this scene truly astounding is that this is treated as a wholesome, normal church activity, as if it were an ice-cream social. This is in stark contrast to the Leatherface masks and writhing tentacles we saw, and rejoiced with, in Dagon. F'tahgn!
>> This leads us to the next surprise. Half a dozen people get munched in the course of this film, and in almost every case, nobody is even curious about WHERE THEY GOT TO. There are no Chrissie Watkins thoraxes washing up on the beach. Honestly, in some ways this movie is no fun at all. But you'd think someone would notice all the unmanned boats knocking around in the bay!

>> The underwater pistols? These turn out to be experimental Navy "pulse guns" that "reset the circuits" in the brains of the Sharks. Being Navy property, they do in fact work underwater. In fact, they may only work underwater. Bill Girdler appears to have a supply of these in his office. That's as far as they went in explaining anything, sorry.

>> They also never explain why, if all the other fish in Full Moon Bay have been killed off by the Bad Guys, the Sharks aren't killed too. Or why the surviving Sharks don't leave to find something to eat. Or how, if the water is poisoned and infested with blood-crazy cartoons Sharks, the Bad Guys seriously expect to sell any condos around the bay. With no fishing and no swimming, who's gonna want their lousy real estate?
>> Clenched as I was waiting for the scene when Schneider tries to convince the mayor to CLOSE THE BEACHES, it never happens. Wow!

>>Then there's the Ben Gardner's Battered Boat Tribute, when Schneider kicks at a hole in the hull of a wrecked fishing boat, and about 12 teeth from a Great White fall out on the ground. No wonder the Sharks can't leave the bay -- all the other Sharks would laugh and make jokes referencing denture adhesive.

>> I, personally, thought the movie was a little long on human intrigue and SHORT ON BLOOD. But it's full of good moments. Overall, I recommend it.

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