What can a critic possibly say about a film whose director describes his creative approach thusly: "I understand why James Cameron in 'Avatar' didn't want to make the 3-D gimmicky, and he was right. But we are making a piranha-attacking-spring-break movie, so we are going to go for the huge on-the-screen effects and fish attacking the audience."
That's how Alexandre Aja explained "Piranha 3D" to us earlier this year. And his movie is either the type of cinematic experience you crave — buckets of blood, tons of silicone — or the type that you find emblematic of the unraveling of Western culture. Moviegoers in both camps should note that the film is not tracking particularly well and will be lucky to gross more than $10 million over the weekend.
Yet the "Piranha 3D" reviews have been largely positive thus far; critics seem to understand that Aja wasn't trying to make an awards-season darling (despite what the film's stars say). Check out what the pros are saying and decide whether or not this flick is for you.
"[T]here's a lake packed with drunk hotties in bikinis they're forever taking off. There are big piranha packs swarming. A few scientists stop by to throw in lines like 'you're not going to believe this.' A few law enforcements types scream, 'Get out of the water now.' Mayhem everywhere, enough that the fake-blood and severed-limb budget was probably the film's biggest expenditure. I'd try describing the gore, but words just can't do justice to the damage a massive Mesozoic underbite, and the occasional outboard motor, can do." — Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times
"Alexandre Aja, who worked his remake magic with 2006's atmospheric 'The Hills Have Eyes,' gets it mainly right, assisted by a lively CG boost and a game cast that really gets into the spirit of things. ... [He] exhibits little patience for such stuff as dramatic tension and tautly coiled suspense, and there are some undeniable choppy bits— but he never loses sight of the potential fun factor laid out in Pete Goldfinger and Josh Stolberg's script. Nor does he stint on the gore, with a terrific assist by the veteran effects duo of Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger, who truly outdo themselves with all those nibbled body parts, as well as added bite by creature designer Neville Page." — Michael Rechtshaffen, The Hollywood Reporter
"The cast knows exactly what they're doing, and Elizabeth Shue and Adam Scott both walk away winners. Scott in particular seems to be having indecent fun striking a few action hero poses and reacting with droll alarms to the monster fish. Christopher Lloyd shows up for what is really just an extended cameo, but every line out of his mouth gets a laugh just because of the general lack of Lloyd in our lives lately. Ving Rhames doesn't have a lot to do, but he goes down swinging. O'Connell may never be able to convincingly shake off the scumbag after the enthusiastic way he and his cameraman (Paul Scheer of 'Human Giant' fame) ply their trade and earn their punishment. Even the young cast, led by Steven R. McQueen and Jessica Szohr, acquit themselves as well as possible considering how generally thin the material is." — Drew McWeeny, HitFix
"There's no way you can talk about the film without going gore gaga over the main attack that hits during the wet t-shirt contest. I'm relatively positive that this film used more blood than any film in film history. I'm thinking elevator scene in 'The Shining' ... times 3,000. More than that though was the crazy awesome gore by [effects studio] K.N.B. There's crazy awesome make-up effects here that just don't stop. For every moment that the CG fish get on your nerves, there's six gore gags by K.N.B. that are just epic." — Harry Knowles, Ain't It Cool News
The Bottom Line
"[H]ere, in the best/worst traditions of '70s exploitation cinema, are flesh-eating fishy gore, lip-smacking nudity and lots of laugh-out-loud silliness. If you're looking for the anti-establishment message found in the John Sayles' scripted, Roger Corman-produced 'Jaws' rip-off, you will be disappointed. However, the re-make's cheesy, eye-popping 3-D effects — flayed bodies, naked breasts, vomit and a severed penis are all flung out of the screen — are an authentic, affectionate throwback to cheapo Cormanesque excess." — Nigel Floyd, Time Out London
Check out everything we've got on "Piranha 3D."
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