Piranha (Alexandre Aja, 2010)
Okay, that’s it—I have officially given up on Alexandre Aja. This is the fifth Aja movie I’ve seen (if you count his first short, Over the Rainbow), and of the five, one of them, Mirrors, was mediocre-if-unnecessary. The rest have all been unwatchable garbage, and this Piranha remake is no exception. In fact, this mess is so godawful I have not only given up on Alexandre Aja, but I have also thrown in the towel with Ving Rhames and Elisabeth Shue—both of whom I have seen in a number of bad movies, but nothing this awful. And Richard Dreyfuss? Christopher Lloyd? What the hell were you two thinking?
If you’ve seen the original, you know the basic idea, and the remake doesn’t do too much to expand it—there are these piranha, see. One of the things that does change is that they’re really, really old piranha, from prehistoric times even (Carl Goodman, a researcher played by Lloyd, tells the county sheriff, played by Shue, that they haven’t been seen on this planet for two hundred million years. In that melodramatic Christopher Lloyd voice, naturally). An earthquake at the bottom of Lake Havasu—excuse me, Lake Victoria, which just happens to reside on the very western border of Arizona (see the difference?)—lets them free from the subterranean lake where they’ve been living just as spring break starts. Things are complicated by a sleazy Girls Gone Wild-style director (Jerry O’Connell) who’s filming some underwater porn, and when his location scout flakes out, he ends up hiring Jake, a local (The Vampire Diaries‘ Steven R. McQueen, no relation to the director of Hunger), who just happens to be the sheriff’s son, as his new location scout, and the boy’s wannabe girlfriend Kelly (Gossip Girl‘s Jessica Szohr, who rivals the “porn stars”, played by British socialite Kelly Brook and actual real-life porn star Riley Steele, in the hots department) tags along when Mr. Sleazoid sees her. To make things even more silly, Jake is supposed to be babysitting his younger brother and sister (Brokeback Mountain‘s Brooklynn Proulx, easily the best thing about this movie, and Spooky Buddies‘ Sage Ryan) while all this is going on and, well, despite the fact that he paid them very well to stay at home, kids will be kids…
You know, I could probably forgive this movie a lot—its gratuitous nudity, the awful green-screening and worse CGI, the 3D (which is far more Jaws 3-D than even the worst Real-D movie you’ve ever seen), the idiotic special effects, arguably the worst soundtrack I have ever heard in a movie—if Alexandre Aja had any idea what made the original film such a barrel of fun. But it’s obvious from the get-go that he doesn’t. Hell, one wonders if he’s ever even seen the original. Joe Dante’s original, with its sharp-as-a-piranha-tooth John Sayles script, is such a good stupid movie because while you know you’re not supposed to take it seriously, Dante and Sayles present it to you as if you’re supposed to. This is a very important distinction, and it is one that is totally lost on Aja. Dante and Sayles were lampooning the ecohorror flicks of Guerdon Trueblood and his ilk, and they had endless amounts of fun doing so, but they were still making an ecohorror exploitation movie. Alexandre Aja instead chose to make a softcore comedy that contains a whole lot of fake blood. That is an entirely different beast indeed, and to make things worse, Aja really, really needs you to know that he’s in on the joke, and so he ends up throwing in things that are supposed to be funny. I think. They’re actually, mostly, tasteless and stupid, unless you’re a toilet-humor and dick-joke-obsessed prepubescent.
Like most folks, I haven’t generally been a fan of the whole “remake everything in sight” movement that has infected Hollywood since Ring became a worldwide phenomenon ten years ago. But most of the time, I haven’t outright loathed the remakes; there have only been three real exceptions to that rule. Marcus Nispel’s ridiculous remake of Friday the 13th. Josef Rusnak’s virulently pro-life remake of It’s Alive in 2008. And now, Alexandre Aja’s remake of Piranha, which somehow manages to transcend even the stupidity of his own remake of The Hills Have Eyes. This is the epitome of the phrase “a waste of celluloid.” ½
Seriously? Aja’s remake makes this piece of Jim Cameron silliness look like Oscar material. Save yourself the trauma and rent Piranha II: The Spawning instead.