Dennis Quaid - Mike Brody
Bess Armstrong - Dr. Kathryn 'Kay' Morgan
Simon MacCorkindale - Philip FitzRoyce
Louis Gossett Jr. - Calvin Bouchard
John Putch - Sean Brody
Lea Thompson - Kelly Ann Bukowski
P.H. Moriarty - Jack Tate
Genre - Horror/Thriller/Bad Animals
Running Time - 93 Minutes
Well it's July and you know what that means - another addition of "SHARK SUMMER", 2 months where the main focus will be on those dangerous fish so many of us are fascinated with and afraid of. Last year, I started with the 1975 blockbuster classic, JAWS by Steven Spielberg. Based on Peter Benchley's best-selling novel, JAWS became a pop culture institution by becoming the first film to make over $100 million domestically. Who can forget that John Williams' score and Roy Schieder's, Richard Dreyfuss', and Robert Shaw's performances?
Obviously a lot of filmmakers couldn't, as a bunch of imitators were released quickly after JAWS' massive success. JAWS, itself, was a victim of imitators in terms of sequels that failed to live up to what Steven Spielberg and company had brought to the masses. JAWS 2 was an unnecessary sequel that was inferior in every way. Yet, it exists and I honestly don't think it's that bad. It has a great Roy Scheider performance and some tense scenes involving a shark attacking stupid characters.
Unfortunately, it didn't end at JAWS 2, as two more sequels were eventually made. I'll get to JAWS: THE REVENGE later this summer, which will probably destroy any tolerance level I have left. But right now, we're going to take a look at JAWS 3-D, or JAWS III since I watched this in 2-D. Either way you see this film, it's still a pretty bad film - although its unintentional comedy has made it somewhat a guilty pleasure for me and some other folks out there.
Mike Brody (Dennis Quaid), growing up exponentially fast since JAWS 2, is now working at Sea World in Florida. His younger brother Sean (John Putch) is visiting him for a bit. Mike is also seeing a senior biologist named Kay (Bess Armstrong), which seems to be going very well.
Even though Mike thought he was safe from sharks, a great white shark decides to follow water skiiers into Sea World. When one of the workers ends up missing, Sea World owner Calvin Bouchard (Louis Gossett Jr.) wants the shark captured - not to stop it, but to make it a featured attraction to make more money. Mike, Kay, and a British hunter named Philip FitzRoyce (Simon MacCorkindale) capture the shark and let it heal a bit before giving it a home at the water park.
Unfortunately, Calvin's greed orders his workers to place the shark in a tank so they could do the exhibit sooner than later. However, the shark ends up in the wrong water tank and it ends up dying because of it. While Mike and Kay are upset about this, they become more upset when they realize that the shark they captured was just a baby and didn't kill one of Sea World's workers. Who did? The mama shark, who crashes into Sea World to cause havoc on the park for killing her child.
- The cast. JAWS 3-D is a terrible film for many, many reasons. But at least it has a group of actors who are more than decent. Honestly, they belong in a much better film.
Dennis Quaid does what he can as Mike Brody. He makes great armpit sweat stains though. Same goes with John Putch as Sean Brody, who takes a bland character on paper and makes him somewhat charming and likeable. But honestly, you'd think the screenwriters would take advantage of the family history here to create more captivating characters. It's a shame these two actors didn't have better material to play with.
Bess Armstrong was likeable as the overly perky Kay. Simon MacCorkindale has a cool accent that makes him standout. His exit was quite memorable as well. Lea Thompson, in her first film role, looks great as Kelly Ann. She's also very likeable in a small girlfriend role. And Louis Gossett Jr., coming off of an Academy Award nomination at the time, just looks silly as the slimy Calvin. But something about his performance was entertaining. I think it was because he actually had a personally one could respond to. Good cast, terrible script.
- The final act. If there's anything remotely memorable about JAWS 3-D, it's the finale. While not close to what the first two films have presented, at least it's somewhat tense and entertaining to watch. I mean, watching a giant shark breaking into Sea World and destroying stuff just to get revenge on those who murdered her child is just a lot of fun. Honestly, it's the only time that the film actually feels like a killer shark film - a.k.a. not boring like the hour commercial for Sea World that comes before it.
My only wish for this portion of the film was that the shark had eaten more stupid characters than she did. It feels fairly tame, although the film does pick up quite quickly once the mother shark makes her appearance. Sure, she scares a bunch of folks, but you never really feel like their lives are remotely threatened. Still, the last half hour is "so bad, it's good" and it puts a stupid smile on my face.
- The location. I gotta admit - I love the Sea World location. It makes JAWS 3-D look and feel different from the previous two films by taking much of the film away from Amity, and the beach setting in general. It gives reason as to why Mike Brody would be even near this sort of environment considering his past, while bringing in newer characters who all have some sort of connection to the theme park. I do think how the sharks managed to get from the beach into Sea World is pretty ridiculous. I also think the Sea World aspect could have been explored more for thrills and scares. But at least JAWS 3-D isn't a retread of JAWS like JAWS 2 was in many ways. So the film has got that going for it.
- The "special" effects. Okay, let me get this out of the way: the effects in JAWS 3-D are freakin' AWFUL. But they do up the entertainment factor ten-fold. Terrible green screen. Ridiculous looking rubber sharks. And the coup-de-grace - the shark charging towards the glass of the control center, breaking the glass without really moving at all.
And what about the shark blowing up?
Terrible 3-D at its finest. Tell me you can really hate these horrible special effects. So bad, yet so funny.
- Unintentionally funny moments like this one. While a douchey thing to do, I must commend the actor who pushed this girl's face into the glass to get a closer look of that floating head. It made me die of laughter. Thanks for that.
- The screenplay. JAWS 3-D shouldn't have existed period. But if it had to, there should have been at least a decent script accompanying it. The issue with how terrible JAWS 3-D stems from many sources.
Before this version of JAWS 3-D was even conceived, the original plan was an idea for a JAWS spoof called JAWS 3, PEOPLE 0. NATIONAL LAMPOON writers and even PIRANHA director Joe Dante were attached to the project at one point. This was a favorable idea until the 3-D fad came back in a bad way in 1981 with COMIN' AT YA, which did well with the format even though reviews were bad for it. When studios realized that the 3-D deal could make them tons of money, they jumped on the bandwagon. This happened especially for the horror genre, in which we got AMITYVILLE 3-D, FRIDAY THE 13TH 3-D [probably the most popular and financially successful of the 3-D horror films], and of course - JAWS 3-D.
The late, great Richard Matheson was hired to write the script. However, what he wanted to create wasn't what the studio wanted. For one, Matheson was forced to put in the Brody boys to connect it with the previous two JAWS films. Matheson didn't think it made sense. The studio wanted Matheson to make the villain the same shark that was electrocuted in JAWS 2, which he thought was ridiculous. The studio even wanted Matheson to write in a role for Mickey Rooney, for whatever reason. Matheson wasn't pleased with the final product, which he claimed was revised by script doctors and Carl Gottlieb, who had revised the scripts for the other JAWS films. Matheson believed his story, along with a decent director, would have made for a good sequel.
However, I can only judge the final product. And folks, it stinks. The characters are bland and uninteresting. The only one who has any sort of personality is Calvin, only because he's the greedy businessman. Other than that, you don't really care about anyone else. Which is sad, since Mike and Sean Brody were in the first two films and you'd think the screenplay would give them something interesting to do concerning their past. But Mike seems okay with water, while Sean has a fear but goes in it anyway. Nothing is really done with their past stories, which is unfortunate.
The screenplay also doesn't have much action, or many thrills until the final act. The first hour of the film seems like a promotional ad for Sea World. Speaking of which, why would Sea World even want to be associated with a film involving a shark attacking their facility and putting their customers in danger? It really feels counterproductive. But seriously, why do I want to watch people drink at a bar, water ski, feed dolphins, and get grabbed by fake tentacles in a killer shark movie?? Who thought this was a good idea?
Honestly, there's no substance in this film. People can say all the negative things they want about JAWS 2. But at least that film had some depth to it. This film is a shallow shell of the films that established it. And even though it isn't a spoof, how come I'm still laughing at how horrible it all is? I don't blame Richard Matheson for having been ashamed of this movie. If I had a hand in producing it, I'd probably be embarrassed too. Just an awful script with bland dialogue and even blander characters. Whatever.
- The bland, dull direction. I'm not surprised Joe Alves hasn't directed a film since JAWS 3-D. He may have been a great production designer, especially on the first two JAWS films. But as a first time director, he really doesn't have a clue in what makes a thriller thrilling. For a 90 minute movie, it feels much longer than that. While the final act is better, it still takes much longer for things to happen than it ought to. The shots where the 3-D plays out are pretty annoying. In fact, Alves has no idea how to handle 3-D effects since they look extremely bad. Shots for a bitten off fish head and an amputed arm floating underwater doesn't exactly make my heart beat faster with anticipation. Even the scene where the shark breaks the glass is edited way too long. And what was up with the unnecessary slow motion during that scene? And don't get me started on the "happy" ending. Joe Alves was the wrong person to direct this film. The visuals here are pretty depressing.
THE FINAL HOWL
JAWS 3-D is a terrible film that tarnishes the JAWS name. The special effects are awful. The direction is dull. And the screenplay has no substance, as the studio just wanted to cash in on a 3-D fad at the time. And while the film is bad, it still has a decent cast, an original location, and moments that come off an unintentionally funny and entertaining. Plus, there's a JAWS movie worse than this one, which makes JAWS 3-D a more watchable film by default. A "guilty pleasure" for some, but I find this sequel to be mostly "guilty".