Monday, March 18, 2013

Review: Mega Piranha

If you're actually reading this rather than scrolling past it, you're doubtlessly asking yourself the same question I do whenever I see one of these Asylum cheapies on Netflix Instant:

"Is it fun-bad, or just bad-bad?"

I'm happy to report this one is solidly in the former camp. You get:

  • A ridiculous story involving exponentially-growing piranha developed by well-meaning scientists whose goal was…to feed the poor? Maybe they left out the rest of that line of dialogue ("…to the piranha").
  • Has-beens and Never-wases as our leads: '80s pop star Tiffany, one of the Brady kids as the senator, a villain who periodically forgets what kind of accent he's supposed to have, and a (snicker) Navy SEAL hero who I can only assume is a stunt actor. We'll call him Sgt. Meatface, because it suits him.
  • Truly laughable special effects—as in, not just groan-inducingly bad. You'll blurt out in astonished, yelping laughter just like you did in Birdemic, although not as often. (Don't think for a moment that Mega Piranha out-Birdemics Birdemic.)
  • Whimsically obvious errors like the Venezuelan junta (look, I don't know, ask them) driving SUVs with California plates.

I give Mega Piranha credit for trying to have a sort-of coherent story, and for swift pacing. In cutting rapidly from one plot point to the next, it seems to be actively trying to compensate for its own stultifying level of quality, and it has just enough of a grasp on reality to comprehend that dropping explosive shells on a river delta in Venezuela might have geopolitical consequences. But that's not saying much.

You might be wondering about Tiffany's performance. Well…she makes an effort, but let's just say Debbie Gibson was more believable in that one Mega-Shark movie (I think it was whichever one didn't have Jaleel White in it). The money line in this movie is hers: "They should've doubled the kilotawns." Maybe she was drunk for that scene.

Most of the acting-related laughs come from Sgt. Meatface, whose vacant yet aggressive demeanor recalls Reb Brown in Space Mutiny. But by far my favorite character was the unnamed captain of the American missile cruiser, who could only seem less like a navy captain if he was James Franco's character from Spring Breakers. By comparison to this guy, Robert Picardo (in a similar role in Mega-Shark I or II) came off like R. Lee Ermey.

And I would be remiss if I didn't mention the fact that this movie has a truly WTF cop-out ending, akin to that of Monster a Go-Go but not quite as brazen. It left Mrs. Fraught and I literally pounding our skulls in bafflement.

Justifying the existence of this film is even more difficult than it is with other Asylum mockbusters like Transmorphers inasmuch as the film being cashed in upon here (Piranha 3D) is itself hardly a blockbuster. In fact…god help us all, someone somewhere might someday try to make a parody of Mega Piranha, and then our planet will surely collapse into its own navel. But for now, I have to say I enjoyed Mega Piranha a bit more than the two Mega-Shark movies, probably because the Mega-Sharks seemed to be trying to poke fun at themselves, which diminishes the fun for us, the mocking audience. Mega Piranha at least has the courage of its own convictions. "No budget? Tight shoot schedule? No matter—let's make the best damn shitty cash-in we can!"

Star Score: 1.5 out of 5

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