'Piranha 3D' Review: Cliched but Highly Enjoyable

The new monster movie “Piranha 3D,” is packed with clichés. From the unloved dork who spends most of the movie trying to court and protect the girl he likes, to the quirky fish historian who knows a lot about piranhas thought extinct for millions of years, this film relishes B-movie clichés. As the title implies, “Piranha 3D” is an over-the-top thriller about piranha that attack the viewing audiences in three dimensions. Although both campy and predictable, there are enough interesting twists and exciting scenes to make it highly watchable.

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The story opens on a quiet lake as Matt (played by a surprise cameo), is fishing. A quake from beneath the lake suddenly shakes his small boat (he really needs a bigger boat but that’s another story.) Soon enough, Matt’s boat is swirling around as he tries to stay above water, not knowing what has been unleashed below him.

What has been unleashed are huge numbers of piranha who have been cannibalizing themselves for millions of years and are now pretty excited to have escaped from their underground prison. Unfortunately for the townspeople and the spring break visitors, the hungry flesh-eaters are set free during the high-traffic tourist time for a busy local sheriff (Elizabeth Shue). It is also a busy time for Derrick Jones (Jerry O’ Connell), a filmmaker working on a “Girls Gone Wild”-type video featuring college teens on spring break.

Along with the sheriff and Jones, the movie focuses on Jake Forrester, the sheriff’s teenage son played by Steven R. McQueen, grandson of famed actor Steve McQueen. Early in the film, Jake is hired by Jones to scout out locations for his adult-only movie. He's supposed to babysit his two younger siblings that day but skips out.

As noted above, the plot is full of clichés and stereotypical characters, including Jake and his danger-prone younger siblings. However, these characters are enjoyable and we want them to survive. There are also dislikable characters audiences will likely want to see served up as "piranha platters." It should also be noted that this film has a strong cast, including Academy Award-nominee Elizabeth Shue and the great Christopher Lloyd. The best actor in the film, though, is Jerry O’ Connell, who brings the term sleaze bag to a new level.

The movie does not take itself seriously. I’m sure the writers knew how many clichés they were using when writing and they borrowed heavily from other monster-in-the-water movies. There is a lot of nudity and gruesome attack sequences.

My biggest problem is that some events are blatantly over the top. I expected more corniness and less carnage. I enjoy the over-the-top quality, but at times it just seemed like too much. I especially felt that during a bloody and very gruesome beach-attack sequence. Additionally, the big climactic scene of the sheriff’s son trying to save the girl he likes is both over-the-top and unbelievable.

Despite its faults, however, “Piranha 3D” is a movie worth biting into.

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