Alexandre Aja’s third horror remake kicks off with Richard Dreyfuss getting sucked into an astonishingly lame-looking computer-generated whirlpool before being gobbled by two-million year-old killer guppies. Dreyfuss’ cameo is meant to remind the amnesiacs in the audience of Jaws, though wouldn’t it have been more in keeping with the monumental crassness of Aja’s Piranha to somehow digitally resurrect Roy Scheider and shove him into this innovative new product for inducing vomit? That’s not hyperbole, incidentally—there are at least two acts of vomiting in the movie itself, and only one is performed by a piranha.
Wasn’t the first third of Saving Private Ryan supposed to be a comedy? Apparently that’s the sort of “high-concept” that gets green-lit these days, resulting in this brazenly cynical, simultaneously tedious and upsetting beach blanket bloodbath, quite possibly the only summer fare that includes both Academy Award-winning actors and porn stars in its cast, not to mention the chubby kid from Stand By Me. Funny thing is, I’m not sure which camp gives the worst performances. At least valiant Elizabeth Shue looks like she’s trying, and Christopher Lloyd is nearly amusing in the Sam Jaffe expository scientist bit, though he doesn’t have to work as hard as Sperm Overload 3’s Gianna Michaels, playing a topless parasailing appetizer.
Scripted by Josh Stolberg and Peter Goldfinger, the story’s at once risibly sentimental and utterly heartless, winkily aware of its own irritatingly idiocy yet idiotic nonetheless. It concerns Sheriff Shue trying to evacuate an Arizona resort upon discovering swarms of hungry cannibal piranhas released from captivity while some mannequin who’s supposed to be her teenage son absconds from babysitting duties to hang on a boat with Jerry O’Connell’s insufferable moron with a movie camera, who’s supposedly making pornography. Of course Shue can’t get those pesky spring breakers to exit the water, and soon enough all those dozens of young women Aja worked so hard to get out of their bikinis are ripped to shreds, not only by piranha teeth but also the outboard motor of some scumbag foolishly trying to escape the massacre. After seeing Piranha you may want to undertake hypnosis to get its images out of your head.
It strikes me that O’Connell’s would-be director is actually a pretty obvious stand-in for Aja. While he’s clearly no match for Aja in the sadistic misogyny department, all O’Connell wants for the first half of Piranha is to shoot naked tits, yet his most vivid expression of amazement occurs when he sees one of his honeys consumed by piranhas, who possess the showmanship to penetrate her from below and exit through her mouth. Soon after O’Connell’s back on his boat, half-mutilated, paraphrasing Eric Roberts in The Pope of Greenwich Village. “They took my penis,” he gasps, as though he wasn’t impotent to begin with. But he’s impotent in 3-D! Feeling entertained yet?