Saturday, April 24, 2010

Film Critique- "Jaws: The Revenge"

I was searching the archives over at Operation Orca and I found a thread of my older critiques. I thought they had all been published here at Turzman Dot Com but nay, there were some stragglers.
I will be sure to get them over here ASAP, but only one at a time. I don't want to logjam my readers to the point of migraine pains. I figured I'd start off with a true classic. A film that was legend in this wacky biz-niz long before it was ever made. A film so bad, it's good and often credited as being the WORST film of all time.
So, originally published at OpOrc and KarmaCritic back in May of 2008, and all due respect to the true worst film of all time, Troll II, I give you...

starring: Lorraine Gary, Lance Guest, Mario Van Peebles, Michael Caine
written by: Michael De Guzman
directed by: Joseph Sargent

The rumors are true. Jaws: The Revenge is one of the worst movies ever shown to audiences. But for all the bad that has been said about JTR (and boy-o-boy, has there been a lot of bad!), there is some merit to be found, even in a piece of garbage like this.

Don't get too excited, there's no silver lining in this dark cloud nor is there gold at the end of this rainbow. Hell, this box of Cracker Jacks doesn't even have a nifty little toy waiting for you. But if nothing else, JTR is a very educational film, in a certain context. Here's what one can learn after viewing the fourth (and so far, final) Jaws installment:

Want to know why Lorraine Gary was never a leading lady? Watch Jaws 4.
Want to know why Joseph Sargent has only directed lousy television since the late 80's? Watch Jaws 4.
Want to know why Lance Guest fell off the face of the Earth? Watch Jaws 4.
Want to know how low Michael Caine will stoop for a paycheck? Watch Jaws 4.
Want to know the wrong way to act Jamaican? Watch Mario Van Peebles in Jaws 4.
Want to know exactly how a Great White shark does not behave? Watch Jaws 4.

Oh yeah, I can go on, but I'm here to write a review...

The film's titles are accompanied by a POV shot of the titular beastie swimming the waters off Amity Island and a variation of John Williams' magnificent score from the original Jaws, and we'll come to find that this is the first of many lame-duck and embarrassing attempts to remind the viewer that we are, in fact, watching a Jaws sequel via what the producers want us to believe are homages (more on this later). As the music crescendos, and the tension (ha!) builds, we cut abruptly to... a fish in a frying pan. Um, scary, right? But wait- who's frying the fish?
Why, it's ELLEN BRODY! Being played by- LORRAINE GARY! The same actress who played her in the first two films! YAY, fly the banners and blow the trumpets!


Where's the fanfare? Oh yeah, it's only Lorraine Gary, who hadn't worked since 1979's Speilberg sleeper, 1941, and had since been retired and married to Sid Sheinberg, then president of Universal Pictures. (Hmmm, the game is afoot, Watson). Oh well, we're supposed to think it's a big deal, so take it as you see fit.

Mama Brody's talking to her youngest, Sean (played by a different actor again, this time it's Mitchell Anderson. Who? Nevermind.) and Sean is following Dad's footsteps, as he's a deputy in the Amity PD, which means it's him and one other cop, if JTR follows the same formula as Jaws I & II. So dedicated is deputy Sean, that he's going to the office to check in before he joins mom and girlfriend for a little Christmas Eve celebration.
Going to the office? Has the Amity PD discontinued the use of walkie-talkies? Geez, they really do count on summer dollars for survival in this town! So Sean goes to the cop station and the first two things we see really piss me off...

First, there's a picture of (homage alert) Roy Scheider in his Amity PD uniform, a publicity still from the original Jaws hovering over the desk of a secretary named (homage alert) Polly, which was the name of the secretary from the original. Remember the line, "Let Polly do the printing!"? Well to us JawsFreaks, Polly's a legend for her penmanship alone. Is it the same actress? Can't be. Polly was older than dirt in 1975, and if she hadn't retired by 1987, then the Amity PD must implement a slave labor program not unlike the Pharohs of Egypt. Poor, poor Polly. And the picture of Martin Brody? C'mon, I love Scheider as much as any heterosexual male, but anybody with even a selective memory knows what he meant to this franchise, and we don't need reminders. There are even some of us who know that Scheider turned down a god-awful amount of money for a cameo in part 4, just to get chomped instead of Sean (oops, spoiler, sorry).

All praise to Allah that he didn't do it.

Anyway, Sean can't go home yet because there's a piece of driftwood in the channel that will cause all sorts of chaos for the fishermen (?) and he has to move it.


Forget it, it's a plot device to get Sean on the water. And why can't the other cop do it? Because he's busy investigating reports of cow tipping!?!? (Cows? In New England? On an island? I don't think so.) Jesus, Sean. Just get in the boat and let's get this over with...

He gets et up. There's this log, see? It's stuck next to a buoy, and this will bother the fishermen, how, exactly? Oh please. As Sean works this log, a thirty foot Great White sneaks up behind him and bites off his arm, along with a big chunk of boat. Lousy editing, fast cuts, quick glimpses of teeth; real lazy. Sean falls in water, clings to log and buoy. (Homage alert) This scene is oddly similar to Chrissie Watkins' death at the beginning of the original. So let's think about this...

In order to lure Sean into the water, the shark (who somehow found out Sean was a cop, and on-duty tonight(!)) placed the log in the channel, next to the buoy, disrupting fishermen AND going on land to tip some cows to make sure the other cop would be too busy to do it himself! How do we know this? Well, close analysis of the log shows what are clearly teeth marks! So this shark is clever, conniving, and out to get the Brody clan. Remember, this time, it's personal.

So this film is five minutes old and we've already had shameless plugs of the original film and countless plot flaws.

Do you hate this movie yet?

Cut to Sean's funeral, and guess who flew in for the festivities? The older Brody sibling, Michael, played this time by Lance Guest (four years removed from the magnificent, The Last Starfighter! What the hell happened?) Michael is married to an arc welding artist (I swear to God, I can't make this up!) and has a daughter. One of the few bright spots in this film is Thea Brody, played by Judith Barsi, who tragically, was murdered by her father shortly after this film. The kid's not annoying, and the viewer does not form an instant despise for her, unlike little kids in most other movies. Irony can be pretty ironic, I guess.

Anyway, Michael has become a marine biologist, studying giant snails in the Bahamas. Wow, fun stuff. You know, you'd think that after the events in Jaws III, both the Brody kids would have sense enough to stay the hell away from the water. But yet, one's a cop on an island, and the other gets paid to swim in the ocean.

Sweet Jesus, I hate this movie.

And we come to find that Michael, despite working on his doctorate (studying snails, woo-hoo!) is a complete idiot. His grand plan to console his mom, and get her mind off sharks is to invite her down to the Bahamas(!) Yeah, go from one island to another, to forget about sharks. Brilliant, you shithead.

And besides, wouldn't a third-story high-rise in lower Manhattan be sufficient protection from the average shark? Even if it was a real ambitious shark, like the one in this film. Oh well, I shouldn't digress too much, because this movie gets worse. For example, Ellen is convinced it was the shark that killed her husband, too.
"But Mom, Dad died of a heart attack." Michael reminds her.
"No he didn't. He died of FEAR!" She exclaims.

Now hold on, sister. Martin Brody saved this podunk town, not once, but twice from giant, man-eating sharks, so let's try and give him a little credit. Died of fear?


So they fly to the Bahamas. And the shark swims to the Bahamas. And we meet Hoagie (Michael Caine) and it's obvious in his scenes that the other participants were in awe in the presence of a real actor. There's nothing special about the character, except that it's played by Michael Caine, and provides a love interest for the emotionally distraught Ellen. Her son's dead body isn't even cold yet, and she's gonna play patty-fingers with the local flyboy. Eww, gross.

Then we meet Jake, aka- Mario Van Peebles with a ridiculously fake Jamaican accent. Get ready to hate Jake because he's as annoying as fecal matter shoved up your nose. He's also pissed because they lost one whole day's worth of research because Mike had to leave town.

Yeah, for his brother's funeral, you scumbag!

Besides, the average sea-snail (or conch) travels an impressive four inches a day. How much ground-breaking data could possibly have been lost!? And by the way, who's paying for this snail research, anyway? Obviously someone with waaaay too much money. Sea snails? Booooriiiiing!

So Jake and Michael are fiddling with snails, and the shark shows up to spoil their plans. And it's obvious that the shark has more interest in Michael than Jake, adding credence to the whole "this time it's personal" plot point. But brilliant Michael has another great idea how to handle the whole "shark thing," he decides to keep it a secret!?!?

Hold on now. There's this family with a violent history involving killer sharks. His one brother just got et, and the mom is convinced that fear of the shark killed the dad. So when another giant shark shows up and picks on the other brother, he decides to sit on that information? Not even telling the authorities? A decision which, by the way, directly leads to the deaths of people later in the film! Never mind the criminal negligence, but this is the act of a really big jerk! Keeping his family out of the loop? Disgraceful.

Also, Mike has a problem with his mom looking for a little nookie from Hoagie. This further adds to Michael's jerkiness, not even allowing his mother a little crisis counseling. (Even if it is the high-hard one from Michael Caine). But hey, live and let live and stay out of the water.

Okay enough of this. Flash forward to the end game, which is about as dopey as a movie ending can be. Eventually, everyone ends up on a boat, Jake has rigged some electro-thinga-majigger to shock the shark and Ellen's driving the boat. (Homage alert) as the boat and shark approach like jousting knights, Ellen has flashbacks to when Martin killed the first shark. I'll say that again; Ellen has flashbacks, remembering events she did not witness (!) but at this point, who cares, really?

The shark gets shocked, jumps out of the water, roars(!), and gets stabbed by the pointy thing on the front of the boat. Good driving, Ellen! Oh yeah, then the shark explodes(!!).

Roll credits, movie over, mercifully.

And there you have it- the heart-ripping critique of a bad Jaws sequel by a Jaws FINatic. I'll keep the shark theme going, so stay tuned for my reviews of Sharkwater (2007) and the surprisingly good, made for German TV movie, Hai Alarm auf Mallorca (2004), or as American DVD audiences came to know it as in 2007, Shark Attack in the Mediterranean.

Stay out of the water.