The original Piranha (1978), a somewhat infamous cult classic, was released by legendary B-movie maestro Roger Corman’s New World Pictures and directed by then future Gremlins director Joe Dante as an obvious attempt to ride Speilberg’s wake of success with Jaws. That Dante’s film is still relevent speaks to the appeal of it’s cheesy, yet committed actors, and time-capsule special effects.
French director Alexandre Aja (High Tension, The Hills Have Eyes (2006)) does this remake justice by sticking with the spirit of the original. The plot, for instance, is simple, serving towards the greater goals of any B-movie worth its salt: i.e. blood and boobies. Piranha 3D promises both by unleashing hordes of Paleozoic piranha in an Arizonan lake during spring break. Just in case spring break isn’t quite excuse enough for females to bare their breasts, Jerry O’Connell plays an extra skeezy version of that Girls Gone Wild super-douche, looking for the perfect spots on the lake to shoot his Wild Wild Girls videos.
What comes is a movie of beats: an attack here, a boob there, each getting progressively more explicit as the film goes on. The between moments, or, “story,” as they’re sometimes called, are used for humorous cameos and silly dialogue that serve either to put people in peril or to get people naked (seriously, there’s lots of naked). Steve McQueen’s actual grandson plays Jake, son of Elisabeth Shue’s town sheriff, who skips out on babysitting his much younger brother and sister in order to have fun like everybody else (his little sister has the funniest role of the movie). Christopher Lloyd and Richard Dreyfuss (in a winking homage to the film that whet the wallets of the original’s creators) are delightful in their roles as (what else) loony scientist and fisherman, respectively.
That the film is presented in 3D caps off its exploitative, drive-in movie style. When the third act finale makes Saving Private Ryan look like Spongebob, it becomes a wonder that a film that revels in such cartoonish graphic sex and violence saw wide release in 2010. But as far as trash-cinema from any year goes, Piranha 3D is good bad fun.