THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
"SHARK NIGHT 3D"
Sara Paxton is apparently the catch of the day.
What is it that makes some people enjoy watching movie characters die in really bizarre, grisly ways? When I first heard there was going to be a movie called Shark Night 3D, I immediately became psyched. Sharks! Eating people! In 3D! Then I felt a mild sense of disappointment to learn the film had received a PG-13 rating. That meant less gore, and nothing outrageous like the 3D shot of a severed penis in last year's Piranha 3D. But still, Sharks! Eating people! in 3D! Let's agree right now that I won't use the word "good" in conjunction with this movie. Good doesn't really apply here, and I refuse to assess the film's merits under that criteria. It's more about "fun." Does the concept sound like as much fun to you as it did to me? If so, you're going to get your money's worth. Simple as that.
Plot? We don't need no stinking plot! A bunch of college students - including Avatar's Joel David Moore and former "American Idol" contestant Katherine McPhee - head to the isolated lakeside home of their friend Sara (Sara Paxton). There they encounter a couple of rednecks (played by Chris Carmack and The Blair Witch Project's Joshua Leonard), as well as the requisite goofball cop (Donal Logue). For reasons far too complicated and absurd to reveal here, the lake is filled with hungry man-eating sharks, who proceed to chomp on our characters one by one. And hey, did I mention that it's in 3D?
Shark Night is the kind of movie that makes me feel like a hypocrite. I'm always preaching about how 3D should not be used as mere gimmickry, how its presence should be completely justified by the material. On that count, I should totally be ragging on this picture. The thing is, though, that Shark Night actually embraces all of 3D's potential misuses and subsequently spins them into something rather entertaining. For example, at one point, we get an extreme close-up of a massive shark, its mouth wide open, razor-sharp teeth exposed. The thing looks like it's an inch in front of your face. That's...kind of awesome. Director David Ellis - who also made another fun/cheesy thriller called Snakes on a Plane - makes sure to include plenty of “gotcha” moments where a shark unexpectedly jumps out of the water and right toward you. Yes, it's gimmicky, but I cackled with glee anyway. In fairness, the non-gimmicky 3D is pretty good too. Ellis uses the format to highlight the surface of the water and the idea that there are things above the surface and things below the surface.
As with Snakes on a Plane or Piranha 3D, Shark Night is self-aware. It refuses to take itself seriously. Look closely and you'll even notice some amusing visual and story cues lifted from Jaws and Joe Dante's original Piranha. This is a modern day exploitation picture through and through, with no intention other than to provide some tongue-in-cheek cheap thrills. That being the goal, I have to acknowledge that it succeeds. The humans are devoured in a variety of creative ways, with each shark attack providing a rush of adrenaline.
I really don't have much else to say, except that I got a kick out of Shark Night 3D, and therefore I recommend it to other viewers with a similar taste for goofy exploitation cinema. While it lacks the balls-to-the-wall insanity of the R-rated Piranha 3D, it still provides some good, old-fashioned B-movie entertainment. The acting? Eh. The plot? Eh. The sharks eating people in 3D? Oh, yeah!
( out of four)
Shark Night 3D is rated PG-13 for violence and terror, disturbing images, sexual references, partial nudity, language and thematic material. The running time is 1 hour and 29 minutes.