Review: Piranha 3D

Posted August 21st, 2010 at 10:15 am

Piranha 3D wasn’t screened early for critics, which is usually an indication that a film isn’t going to be received well. Instead the filmmakers just thought the audience being targeted wasn’t exactly represented properly by critics so they held off on it. Ironically, critics have come through with generally positive reviews (currently sitting at 83% on RT) and what appears to be some early encouraging word of mouth from audiences.

Embracing its outlandish nature is what makes Piranha 3D stand out. Probably the closest comparison that could be made is with Snakes on a Plane, which wasn’t a great movie but made for a fun experience at the theater. Unfortunately the showing I went to was sparsely populated so the infectiousness of laughter and random comments being made was somewhat missing. Still I found myself enjoying the movie despite it not quite delivering on what I had hoped for.

SyFy has been making a tradition out of crazy animal-hybrids including one called Mega Piranha from earlier this year. Needless to say they are beyond terrible, though some find charm in that.  Piranha 3D certainly has much better production values and acting which makes it worthy of a theater release. The concept is pretty simple. An earthquake opens up a channel to a prehistoric underwater lake that had been housing piranhas thought to be long extinct. They then feast on visiting spring-breakers.

Elizabeth Shue, Adam Scott, Jerry O’Connell, Jesssica Szohr and Steven R. McQueen hold down the primary roles. Smaller ones though for Richard Dreyfuss, Ving Rhames, and Christopher Lloyd add even more to the respectable names involved. Lloyd especially was fun, seemingly channeling a little “Doc Brown”, as a marine biologist and piranha expert.

It took a little while to really get into the action with a lot more buildup than I expected. Really the first half of the film seemed intent on building tension while the second half just let loose and that is when it really got fun. There were several hilarious moments, either because of how outlandish they were or because of how gruesome they were. I just found there to be a bit of a balance issue where things were taken more seriously early and then all hell broke loose for the rest of the film.

My other gripe is that the 3D just wasn’t worthwhile. There were a few scenes where the 3D enhanced what was on screen but it was largely absent through the majority of the film. I don’t think I would have had much different of an opinion on the movie if I had watched it in 2D. Though the appeal of seeing some things, that have never been and may never be on the big screen again, in 3D was a big part of what tempted me out in the first place.

Finding the movie to be flat for the first half and saved by the wild chaos in the second half makes it difficult to recommend Piranha 3D especially at the prices being charged these days. If the actual 3D had been more impressive, and if there was a packed crowd getting into the ridiculousness of it all, it would have been worth it for the experience. Instead I feel comfortable saying that waiting for DVD on this one would probably be the best bet.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆