A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 524 – Jaws: The Revenge

Jaws: The Revenge – August 6th, 2011

I had heard things about this movie. Not good things, I assure you. Just, things. Andy explained to me that it actually bore the tagline “This time, it’s personal.” Which has to be a joke. It’s a joke, right? This whole movie is a joke? I can’t think that it could possibly have been made seriously. The people responsible had to have known they were making something thoroughly ridiculous. It’s a movie about a shark hunting down members of the Brody family and attacking them, from Amity Island in New England to the Bahamas. How can anyone involved have looked at that plot idea and looked at the prior movies and not realized they were making a joke? They can’t have. It’s impossible.

While talking about the movie with Andy, I mentioned that it’s possible to read this movie semi-seriously if one assumes it’s all happening inside the head of Ellen Brody, Chief Brody’s wife. The movie starts out on Amity Island, where Sean Brody has taken his late father’s place on the island’s tiny police force. It’s Christmastime and he’s about to spend the evening with his mother and his fiancee when he gets called out to deal with a log that’s stuck on one of the channel markers. Apparently this was a trap set by the shark, which snaps his arm off as he reaches out to move the log, then gobbles him up. Overcome with grief, Ellen is convinced to join her elder son, Michael, and his family down in the Bahamas for the holiday. Where the shark again appears, this time coming after Michael, his daughter Thea and Ellen herself before Ellen kills it.

Throughout the movie Ellen has nightmares and frequently obsesses over her remaining son and his family living near and working in and around the ocean. She begs Michael to give up his research on conchs and take a teaching job somewhere safely inland. And when the shark shows up near the boat Michael and his research team are working on, ignoring the rest of the team in favor of going after Michael alone, Ellen knows something has happened even though she’s not at all nearby. She tells Michael that the shark’s killed both his father and his brother, to which Michael responds that his father died of a heart attack. Ellen claims that it was fear of the shark that gave him that heart attack. So this is my theory: While this movie could well be just poorly plotted and ill-conceived, cashing in on the franchise and trying for cheese but falling just short of it, it’s also possible that someone had some sort of purpose and was going for a psychological thriller concept.

Oh, I’m not saying it’s well done. I mean, if the psychological thriller aspect was intentional, then it was very poorly executed. It almost makes me wish that it had been intentional and that someone had managed to pull it off. After all, even though this movie is clearly ignoring Jaws 3 in its timeline, we’re still talking about a family that’s had more than its share of close calls with sharks. I can easily see Chief Brody camped out up in his shark watch tower, year round, thermos of coffee and a shotgun close at hand, obsessing over the shark for the rest of his life. I can see that sort of obsession taking its toll on him and on his marriage. On his wife. On his children. So his wife obsessing to the point of fantasizing that her entire family is in danger from the shark? That she’s the one who ultimately saves the day? Toss in the burgeoning romance between her and the pilot who brings them to the Bahamas and I could buy that. I want to buy that.

Unfortunately, even if someone involved with the movie did have that idea at some point in the making of it, it wasn’t really incorporated into what ended up on the screen. According to some reading I’ve done on the movie, apparently the whole revenge thing and the shark’s obsession with the Brody family was supposed to be due to a witch doctor using voodoo to kill them all off. I like my version better. It’s at least less culturally offensive. It does rely on the old “it was all a dream” trope, but that’s the least of this movie’s problems, to be honest.

I won’t say that the performances are bad. They’re adequate. Same for pretty much everything here. It’s all just adequate. Which means that there’s nothing to elevate the absolutely laughable plot to something other than bad. And they’re not self-aware enough about what sort of movie they’re in to take it to cheese levels. I mean, this movie has Michael Caine in it as the pilot who flirts with Ellen Brody. This movie has Michael Caine! And the best I can say about it is that the scenery is pretty and the performances don’t suck. And that it has Michael Caine, whom I do adore no matter what. I hope he made decent money from this and I wish it had been a better movie. I wish it had tried to go in one way or another, fantastically bad or chillingly good, because bobbing along in between just makes for a mess that nothing – not even Ellen Brody’s gigantic shoulder pads – can save.

August 6, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment

Jaws: The Revenge

August 6, 2011

Jaws: The Revenge

I knew that this was going to be a ludicrous movie going into it. I had actually seen the climactic scene at the end once long ago when I tuned in to it just as the movie was drawing to a close and knew just how stupid this movie was going to get before it was over. I also remembered reading reviews of it when it first came out and how badly it was panned. As such I was pretty much prepared for the mess we witnessed when we put this in as the last movie in our second Shark Week, but even being fully braced for it I found myself somewhat amazed by just how insane and lazy this last Jaws sequel really is.

This movie picks up years after the other ones. Sean Brody has taken over for his father as Police Chief on Amity Island and his brother Mike is working down in the Caribbean as a marine biologist gathering data on the migration of conches. Their father has died (of a heart attack, although their mother is sure it was fear of sharks that did him in.) Then tragedy strikes. A giant shark (imagine that!) kills Sean just before Christmas. In fact – the shark lays a clever trap for Sean and lies in wait for him. Or so it seems.

Mike’s mother Ellen Brody, played as she was in Jaws and Jaws 2 by Lorraine Gary, becomes convinced that this giant shark is specifically hunting her family. So sure is she of this that she begs Mike to give up his job and abandon the ocean lest the shark get him too. Instead Mike convinces her to go to the Caribbean with him to those warm southern waters that apparently no great white shark has ever ventured into. Here is where the movie starts to get surreal: it turns out that Ellen is right, and the shark actually follows them somehow to hunt her, Mike and his daughter Thea. There’s even a kind of psychic connection between Ellen and the fish – she’s able to somehow sense it when the fish attacks Mike while he’s diving for conches.

What’s happened here is that this Jaws movie has become more of a supernatural thriller than a serious horror movie. The first Jaws, and even the second one, was somewhat grounded in real life, and that’s what was so terrifying about it. It actually did make people afraid to go into the water because who’s to say that there isn’t a giant shark out there somewhere in reality? The shark in this movie has more in common with Freddy Kruger than with Jaws. It’s a supernatural nightmare creature with a vendetta against one particular family and the ability to find them no matter where they go.

I suppose that makes sense in terms of the time when this movie came out. This came out in 1987 during they heyday of cheesy supernatural horror films. This movie was trying to share the same genre as Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th – and it came out one year before the half-spoof Child’s Play. If you were making a horror movie at that time you had to have a cheesy supernatural undead villain and wise cracking heroes.

Sadly, Jaws doesn’t have the same flair as Freddy. For one thing a shark isn’t able to deliver witty one-liners (although this particular shark does have a throaty roar of a kind – maybe it’s half bear.) For another Robert Englund’s make-up is more convincing and more frightening than this shark. Jaws in this film is a ponderous, lumbering shark (if you can picture such a thing.) It plows inexorably forward gnashing its teeth but seems incapable of stopping or turning. It looks exactly like what it is – a styrofoam shark mock up built around an inflexible torpedo shaped submersible. One of the many problems this movie has is that the film makers allow the lumpy, seemingly semi-paralytic fish too much screen time.

Another problem the movie has is its comic relief. I can mostly tolerate the neverending witty repartee of Michael Caine as Ellen’s romantic interest the dashing airplane pilot Hoagie because he’s Michael Caine. Sure he’s playing an aging Lothario with a million anecdotes of his mis-spent youth, but he’s just so damned charming. Less charming is Mario Van Peebles as Mike’s partner Jake. I spent a lot of the movie wishing he would just stop it with the banter already! The only way I was able to tolerate him was to imagine that he was actually Hermes Conrad from Futurama. I kept expecting Bender to show up and beat up the shark after that.

I do actually quite like Lance Guest as Mike – he’s charming and caring and deosn’t want to have anything to do with the shark most of the time. Lorraine Gary is also pretty good. This movie is mostly about Ellen, and it’s nice to see Lorraine, who was a bit part at best in the first two movies, given more to work with. I just wish the movie itself weren’t so disappointing.

It’s not cheesy enough to be amusing. It’s not scary or funny. Most of the time it doesn’t even make sense (although I highly recommend reading Amanda’s review for an alternative interpretation of the movie that actually works pretty well.) To me the supernatural elements come of as feeling like lazy writing because if you just establish that your shark is a psychic monster bent on revenge then you don’t have to find a reason for anything that happens – it can all be explained as just being supernatural. At the same time the movie tries to pay homage to the first film both by imitating the touching scene of Captain Brody interacting with his son at the breakfast table and by inter-cutting the climax of the original Jaws with the completely ludicrous ending of this movie. It feels like a cheap rip-off when it does these things.

I can completely see why this movie got panned as badly as it did when it came out. It’s an utterly stupid movie, and a kind of sad way for the Jaws franchise to swim ponderously off to die. A part of me wishes it could have been better. Still – at least the first movie remains as great today as it was when it first came out.

August 6, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment