Somewhere near the end of Piranha 3D, as Ving Rhames was indiscriminately firing shotgun casings into the water and Jerry O’Connell was doing tequila shots off an eighty-five percent naked woman, I decided to award this film three stars. This may seem like an unusually high number of stars for a gimmicky b-movie about piranhas attacking drunk college kids in the third dimension, but I happen to find a certain amount of honor in a film delivering exactly upon its promises. Four stars, that would be ludicrous and two stars, that would imply Piranha 3D somehow disappointed. But three stars, that’s the right number for an aggressively pleasurable film involving cocaine, piranhas, inordinate amounts of nudity and Jerry O’Connell.
Sheriff Julie Forester (Elisabeth Shue) is a single mother in charge of the waters surrounding Lake Victoria, a seemingly quiet Arizona town annually invaded by throngs of douche bags and whores every Spring Break. Julie puts her seventeen year old son Jake (Steven R. McQueen) in charge of watching his two little siblings so she can skim the waters for, I guess vomit, but this Babysitting Diaries plan goes awry almost immediately. There are three problems. 1) An underwater earthquake has opened up a subterranean portal, releasing swarms of cannibalistic piranhas. 2) Porn producer Jerry O’Connell has enlisted her son as an impromptu location scout for his newest seedy film. 3) Nanny McPhee had a previous engagement, returning, somewhere else.
Let’s kegstand on this earthquake issue first. These particular piranhas were thought to have gone the way of dragons almost two million years ago, but according to frizzy-haired mad scientist Mr. Goodman (Christopher Lloyd), they’ve managed to survive in an underwater lake, cannibalizing each other and waiting for the day they’d once again get to taste human flesh. I’d be inclined to question his credentials, but I feel like I’ve seen this movie before, and I’d end up with DeLorean backfire and singing telegram blood on my face.
The second concern at hand involves a coked-out porn king (Jerry O’Connell). He, along with his assistant (Paul Scheer), have rented a boat to film barely-legal shenanigans for personal profit, but the dude they hired to show ‘em around cancelled at the last minute (not Nanny McPhee) and it seemed Jake Forester would do just as well. They’re obviously not aware of the piranhas yet, but even if they were, men have done a lot more to peep on a lot less. And coke is involved.
Regardless of reasoning, two little children are left home alone, and as often happens without parental supervision on film, the little rascals get marooned on a sandbar right as a feeding frenzy of piranhas-on-morally-compromised-heathens takes shape. That’s not to say two children I’d estimate at between 8 and 11 are morally-compromised heathens (yet), but that’s the thing about feeding frenzies, they’re frenzies of feeding. Victims are chosen at random, or possibly by appendage length. At least in that way, they have a built in advantage.
What follows is a pattern of gloriously-unbelievable nonsense I wouldn’t dare spoil. Not because it’s delicately crafted or in anyway a surprise but because, if you pay fifteen dollars to see a 3D b-movie about piranhas in the desperate hope that one of the titular vicious fish might bite someone’s penis off, I’d have to be an unfeeling jackass to warn you who’s penis will be bitten off and when. Some mysteries are better severed right in front of you.
Piranhas, like mastadons, like wildebeests and sometimes like boozed-up college kids on spring break, are ludicrous pack-traveling creatures who seem to lack long-term goals. They exist only in the moment to satisfy the most basic of human or creature desires. This strikes me as a bad strategy for planning one’s retirement but a totally reasonable way to spend a Saturday night. I fear the majority of reviewers will disagree with me, but fuck them. Movies are about creating a story and telling said story in an entertaining or enlightening way. Never has a movie so overtly claimed to be about something and then been about that exact same something.
Here are three facts about Piranha 3D: 1) A piranha tears a woman’s swimsuit top off. 2) Adam Scott rides around in a jet ski pretending to be Rambo. 3) I will likely buy it on sale some time late next year for between $6.99 and $8.99. If any of those hot facts made you roll your eyes, there are four other new releases opening in theaters this week for you to see.