I'm giving this film a high rating, not because this is the sort of entertainment that I recommend or seek out, but because it accomplishes exactly what it intends to. And it does it quite well. The title of my review really covers the essentials. It combines human vulnerability in the water, fear of a dreaded underwater creature, with a healthy dose of bare breasted young women. It's an unbeatable combination for the demographic that will find its way to this film. Oh, and did we mention that the whole thing is in 3-D? Just think of the possibilities. And think about the fact that just about every one of those possibilities, including at least one you wouldn't even have imagined, come true.Despite the T and A, films like this are often deeply prudish. There is a parade of sexually liberated teens showing off their ample, bouncing breasts. You just know that it's not just anyone who will get consumed here. The film makes it clear that these young people are sinful and, inevitably, they must be punished. In this case the punishment predictably entails being eaten alive by prehistoric fish. Not surprisingly, none of these effects are subtle or off-camera. We get a full measure of blood and gore.Here's the thing, though. It's extremely well done. You don't have to suspend much disbelief as these horrible, primitive-looking fish things, with jaws agape lunge three-dimensionally into our faces. And we don't have to wonder what's being done to all these nubile bodies. The pieces float right by us, including one rather shocking scene involving a male body part. There's also a graphic dismemberment scene borrowed directly from the 1970 film Catch 22. It was shocking then, and it's still shocking here, more than half a century later.Interestingly, the film has its limits. It's clear there are certain things an audience would not tolerate, at least the mainstream audience intended for this film. The producers knew what they were doing and stay well within those boundaries. Unlike the real world, these predators draw the line at attacking children. The two kids in the story remain untouched, despite ample opportunity for carnage. The other bit of prudery, if that's what it is, concerns which body parts are fair game for the piranha. In the real world, flesh is flesh to a carnivorous fish. It's all dinner. That rule applies to the male characters in the film: no body part is spared. But the women operate in a safer universe. Despite continuously displaying their breasts with full benefit of 3-D, no such violations appear in the film. It's not that these are PG-rated fish. They do more than their share of munching and tearing of human flesh. It's just that they're rather circumspect about female anatomy. Better a leg than a breast.One norm that this film does violate to our benefit is to include some credible acting (Elisabeth Shue performs her role quite well), some decent dialogue and characterization, as well as some excellent cinematography. The only acting that is comically over the top is by Christopher Lloyd as the "scientist" trying to explain why these extinct fish are suddenly terrorizing the local revelers. But Lloyd plays his role exactly as it is written. It's the same lovably exaggerated character he played in the Back to the Future franchise. It's simply who he is and what we expect of him.The punchline is that this movie is better than you'd expect it to be. If the genre is offensive to you, stay away from it. This film isn't pretending to be Citizen Kane. It wears its Gore on its sleeve. But what it does, it does very well. It may be a bit harder for some viewers to defend themselves against what happens on screen simply because the film is so well made. It's easier to distance oneself when the characters are silly, the dialogue is wooden, and the cinematography and F/X are inept. None of that is true here.
Just for the record I was fully prepared for a fun, silly movie like the original Piranha. But apart from some good moments I found this movie messy and rather pointless too.There are some good things. The big attack is gory and one of the few scenes in the film I'd call tense, the special effects look great and well-incorporated here and the scenery is really beautiful. Elizabeth Shue is very good in her role, and Richard Dreyfuss's cameo was really quite neat.So what was wrong? Sadly, pretty much everything else. The script was mostly very weak and cheesy, the music verged on gimmicky and obvious and the story is dull with little surprises. The piranhas are effectively designed, but they're not really that threatening until the big attack and a lot of scenes suffer from a lack of tension and excitement. The editing could've been more tight and less sloppy, while the direction lacks focus and the female nudity does get too much after a while.The acting apart from Shue and Dreyfuss's cameo is not that great in all honesty, Christopher Lloyd overdoes it badly to the point you can't keep a straight face whenever he appears and Jerry O'Connell is so obnoxious you feel nothing but irritation for him. The actors are not helped by the fact the characters are written in a very shallow manner, while I disliked the stupid and unnecessary "it's not over yet" ending. All in all, a messy and pointless film. 3/10 Bethany Cox 2b1af7f3a8