‘Piranha 3-D’ could be the next cult B-movie

Posted Aug. 26, 2010, at 11:56 a.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 12:50 p.m.
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In theaters

“Piranha 3-D”

“The Switch”

Among the new films that opened in area theaters this week, only one will leave a lasting, horrifying impression — in a good way. It’s “Piranha 3-D,” and for fans of cult B-movies, this one has no pre-conceived airs about what it should be other than an absurd slaughterfest that winks broadly at audiences while ripping to shreds more naked co-eds than you can count.

It’s important to underscore that this is a B-movie, with all that implies. If you’re coming to the film hoping for a horror movie that plays it straight, this isn’t for you. Camp hovers all along its fringe and often, it takes center stage.

The title itself is a work of art. You have your piranhas. You have your 3-D. Do you even need an advertising campaign with that title? The answer is no, and the good news is that director Alexander Aja is smart enough to deliver plenty of cheap, over-the-top thrills, the lot of which occur during spring break (of course) at a lake in Arizona.

Trouble is, a little earthquake underwater has unleashed hundreds of the ravenous little monster fish, who pick off people one by one, until the film really lets go in a bloody finale that’s so twisted, the way it’s played here is at once gross — and kind of a riot.

Elisabeth Shue is Sheriff Julie Forester (it’s nice to see the underused Shue back onscreen again, particularly playing a character nobody wants to mess with), and Ving Rhames is her hulking sidekick, Depute Fallon. Joining the mayhem are Christopher Lloyd, Eli Roth, Jerry O’Connell and even Richard Dreyfuss, who many will remember starred in a little film called “Jaws.” Not that this movie will let you forget it.

In fact, “Piranha 3-D” is all about jaws, it’s all about giving fans a fierce blast from the past, and for the most part, it gets the job done.

The week’s most disappointing release is the Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman movie “The Switch,” which comes too close to the Jennifer Lopez movie “The Back-up Plan” to be timely or relevant. Add to that a fair bit of bad writing, only passing chemistry between Aniston and Bateman, not to mention enough predictability to induce audience fatigue, and you have a movie that doesn’t offer a single surprise.

The film follows Kassie and Wally, two best friends who once had a shot at a relationship, blew it, but who now think so much of each other, their relationship is stronger — even if Wally remains in love with Kassie.

Trouble is, Kassie’s biological clock is ticking. She wants a baby, she needs someone’s sperm to make it happen, but instead of asking Wally for the donation, she goes to Roland (Patrick Wilson), an athletic stud who offers up the goods at an insemination party (you read that correctly) thrown by the hot mess that is Juliette Lewis.

Trouble is, Wally gets drunk at the party. Worse, he knocks Roland’s sperm into the sink, where it drips down the drink. What’s a good friend to do? Do the math. Cue the insemination. And bring on years’ worth of lies.

Later, after time away in Minnesota, where she raised her neurotic son, Sebastian (Thomas Robinson), Kassie returns to New York with him. And here is where the movie picks up. Bateman and Robinson have the chemistry Bateman should have shared with Aniston (it snaps, it’s real), who is just playing another version of similar characters she is played in “The Bounty Hunter,” “Love Happens” and “He’s Just Not that Into You.” As any fan of her independent work knows, Aniston has talent and she’s beyond likable, so the question is why is she squandering that talent?

It seems as if she’s more adept at being a tabloid star than she is at being a movie star. The former will keep her name in the news, sure, but the latter will keep her name in lights and, if she chooses better projects, it also will give her a longer, more interesting career.

“Piranha 3D”: Grade B

“The Switch”: Grade C-

On DVD and Blu-ray disc

“Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy — The Rich Mahogany Edition”

Local television news anchors and their newscasts are easy targets to skewer, so in the new two-disc Blu-ray version of “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy — The Rich Mahogany Edition,” broad skewering ensues. And most of it’s funny. The film is 91 minutes of tongue-in-cheek hair pulling, which is especially cheeky since the group getting its hair pulled would rather not have theirs touched, thank you very much.

Set in the early 1970s, Will Ferrell is Ron Burgundy, the enormously popular, hirsute television anchor for San Diego’s Channel 4, who loves his scotch and his lady friends almost as much as he loves being No. 1 in the ratings. Sure, Burgundy is an idiot, but people like his macho bluster and they especially like the way he ends each newscast: “Stay classy, San Diego.”

But when station manager Ed Harken (Fred Willard) hires reporter Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) to add diversity to the newsroom, chauvinist Ron is forced to admit he might have met his match in a woman.

With the help of his bumbling news team — closeted gay sportscaster Champ Kind (David Koechner), dimwitted weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell), and investigative reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) — he decides to fight back. The result is a movie that hits on many unwanted industry truths, and which becomes enjoyably unhinged in the process.

The new “Mahogany Edition” includes never-before-seen extras, “Wake Up, Ron Burgundy: The Lost Movie,” trading cards, bloopers, 36 deleted scenes — and Ron’s private diary, which is a hotbed of lust.

WeekinRewind.com is the site for Bangor Daily News film critic Christopher Smith’s blog, DVD giveaways and archive of movie reviews. Smith’s film reviews appear Fridays in Lifestyle, and his video movie previews appear Wednesdays in the Lifestyle section of bangordailynews.com. He may be reached at Christopher@weekinrewind.com.

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