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Piranha 3D’ Proves 3D is Here to Stay

Shane Steinberg | Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The story must go something like this: sometime after being wowed by the success of “Avatar,” some brainy Hollywood executive came up with the grand idea of making a 3D movie by banking on the two keys to success for any movie — girls and piranhas.

Yes, “Piranha 3D” can be described as overly tanned college girls getting eaten by weird-looking, angry piranhas.

A million or so prehistoric piranhas are set free from the depths of their world beneath Lake Victoria by a tremor just in time for the boozing and wet T-shirt contests of Spring Break. Only their idea of a wild week at the beach doesn’t involve partying hard with the “college bros” and “promiscuous girls,” but rather eating them alive. What ensues is a frat-like dorky-guy-gets-the-girl story drenched in blood, dismembered body parts and bad acting.

What the film does feature besides constantly dancing college kids (honestly, I’ve been to Spring Break and I don’t remember everyone at the beach dancing for every waking moment) is a slew of over-the-hill actors who for some reason agreed to be in this film. Richard Dreyfuss plays a follow-up to his role in “Jaws,” Jerry O’Connell poses as an adult film director, Ving Rhames (“Pulp Fiction”) is the sheriff who heroically dies and Christopher Lloyd plays the whacked out scientist who, for some reason, owns a statue of the extinct piranhas, and seems to be very aroused by their reemergence.

No, in case you’re wondering, “Piranha 3D” is not an Oscar movie. It didn’t debut at Sundance or win the Palm d’Or at Cannes. What it is instead is nothing short of hilarious from start to end. It’s not a comedy, but like so many other movies that some might find to be “scary” (honestly, how anyone could ever confuse this movie with being scary is beyond me), “Piranha 3D” is inadvertently comical.

It could because the movie is about piranhas, or because broshake-drinking meatheads are the victims and we don’t care enough about them to find it the least bit tragic. It might even just be that it’s flat-out dumb. Whatever the reason, it’s funny.

What results from the equation here (sex + jerks with a lot of hair gel getting eaten + actors whose 15 minutes are up + super piranhas = money at the box office) is a film that might not ride the 3D coattails to the extent that its creators thought it would, but one that further proves the obvious — 3D will come to dominate the entertainment industry.

If a B-movie like “Piranha 3D” can turn profits simply because sex sells, and sells even better when it’s in 3D even if the rest of the movie is about man-eating fish, then the floodgates have been opened even more than they were before.

“Piranha 3D” isn’t necessarily a “bad” film if you ignore most of what happens between the beginning and end credits from a truly critical standpoint. But when you think twice about the film, it becomes quite apparent that the filmmakers behind “Piranha 3D” meant for the film to be tongue-in-cheek. It never crosses the line and becomes offensive. Just the same, it never takes itself seriously enough to deserve the kind of shredding that films of its ilk often do when they try to make statements or pass themselves off as serious cinema.

Instead, it’s a film chock full of metaphorical subplots, riveting character development and thought-provoking themes that … come on, really? It’s a movie with a bunch of piranhas and even more beautiful girls. Enough said.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer. Contact Shane Steinberg at ssteinb2@nd.edu.