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Sunday, September 11, 2011

"SHARK NIGHT 3-D" (2011)

"Shark Night 3-D" (* out of ****) bites!

Unfortunately, "Snakes on a Plane" director David R. Ellis plays everything straight in "Shark Night 3-D." Meaning, you had better prepare yourself for clich├ęs galore without a smirk in sight. This derivative, PG-13 rated, 91-minute, yarn concerns three stereotypical, mean-spirited rednecks who drool at the chance to feed stuck-up college kids to ravenous sharks of all sizes. Of course, most of the ocean's deadly predators prefer to prowl the briny blue, but these three rednecks own a stunning device that enables them to paralyze these predators, attach mini-cams to them, relocate them to a Louisiana salt-lake, and wait for them to start chomping. Furthermore, they plan to make big bucks by selling their shark snuff videos to die-hard “Shark Week” addicts after the real thing. Think of "Shark Night 3-D" as "Jaws" trying to meet “8MM." Everybody sports serious expressions because everything is serious. Nevertheless, everybody behaves like idiots, too. A one-armed college jock with a spear wades into a shark-infested lake with revenge in his heart. Hammerheads, threshers, cookie cutters and bull sharks assemble to make munch-meat of him. Sadly, not only are these sharks either digitally concocted or animatronic, but they also act like SyFy Channel sharks. These synthetic sharks swim with such speed that our heroes, when the latter have either a boat with an outboard motor or water bike at their disposal, cannot out leave them in their wake!

An academically challenged Tulane University athlete, Malik (Sinqa Walls of “Choose Connor”), makes a B+ on a test and no longer fears flunking out of college. Malik rewards his dutiful tutor, Nick (Dustin Milligan of “Final Destination 3”), along with Nick’s nerdy roommate Gordon (Joel David Moore of “Avatar”) to join his friends for a good time at a remote lakeside estate. The wealthy parents of Sara (Sara Paxton of “Superhero Movie”) own a beautiful cottage secluded on an island which a sprawling salt-water lake surrounds. Naturally, nobody with a cell phone can raise a signal at Lake Crosby. Furthermore, the nearest hospital lies about two hours away. Little do our recreationally minded heroes know the ill-fate which awaits them. Meantime, Malik tries to play Cupid and get Nick and Sara together. As Malik tells Nick, Sara has not been on a date in three years. Later we learn why. Anyway, Nick and Sara grow chummy and Nick winds up steering Sara’s launch. While Nick is playing admiral, he has show-off Malik at the end of a tether skiing around the lake on a board. Malik impresses everything with his incredible gymnastic feats. He loves to perform flips. Suddenly, Malik feels something ram his board, and he takes a tumble. A shark attacks Malik and tears off his right arm at the bicep. Our heroes bandage Malik and rush him to the hospital. Malik’s blood drips into the lake and another shark slams into the launch so that Malik’s soon-to-be wife, Maya (Alyssa Diaz of TV’s “Southland”), topples into the water and gets gobbled up. Later, Malik storms into the lake with a spear and accomplishes nothing, except dying. The two river rednecks, Sara's ex-boyfriend, Dennis (Chris Carmack of “Into the Blue 2: The Reef), and his sidekick, Red (Joshua Leonard of “Hatchet”), offer to help Sara and her friends. Beth is so sickened by the tragic turn of events that she wants to ride with Dennis and Red back to the mainland. Gordon refuses to let Beth travel alone with them. Before it is all over with heroic Nick has to tangle with Sara’s ex-boyfriend and a shark.

Basically, "Shark Night 3-D" amounts to a complicated but predictable revenge thriller with nothing to recommend it either as top-notch entertainment or so bad it’s good. Freshmen scenarists Will Hayes and Jesse Studenberg neither do Ellis nor the audience any favors with their shallow screenplay that borrows extensively from other shark movies. Their dialogue is flat without any flair. The characters emerge as one-dimensional nitwits waiting for their moment to be eaten. Ellis deserves credit for keeping the action moving at a brisk pace. Nevertheless, he fails to generate any sympathy for our clueless heroes. The villains could be cousins of the rednecks in “Deliverance.” All of the ersatz shark attacks have been lensed before with greater realism in better movies. The 3-D delivers in only two scenes. The first involves an exploding boat flinging shrapnel, and the second shows a shark as its gory innards are blasted out of it. Considering the $28-million budget, you’d think they could have made more than one shark appear convincing. A bull shark does look supremely menacing in a scene straight out of the James Bond feature "License to Kill," but the rest look simulated and swim like torpedoes. Two sharks literally defy gravity by leaping out of the lake to chomp. A first girl caught alone in the lake is straight out of the original "Jaws" as well as the attack on a hapless skier is straight out of the "Jaws 2." If you want to watch a good shark thriller, and you cannot find "Jaws," then you might try "Deep Blue Sea" (1999), or the straight-to-video, outlandish "Shark Attack 3: Megalodon" (2002) and "Shark Swarm" (2008). The PG-13 rating rules out any chance of nudity, and the ability of sharks that can race through the water after speedboats eliminates any sense of credibility. Ellis generates a modicum of suspense when swimmers struggle to out-swim the sharks, but not enough to scare the daylights out of you.

"Shark Night 3-D" is munch-ado-about-gnaw-thing!

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