Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Jaws: The Revenge (1987)

There's really only so much you can do with a shark killing people as the plot of your movie, and really, the first Jaws film did all of it. Eventually, after so many sequels, you just start wondering why people don't just get the fuck out of the water and go home.

Director: Joseph Sargent
Starring: Lorraine Gary, Michael Caine

Co-written with Michelle.

This was the fourth Jaws movie, limply dragging its half-dead, Alzheimer's-ridden, gout-befallen, wrinkled corpse across a field full of younger and spryer films. But before I talk about this nonsense, what did I think of the other movies?

Jaws is a classic. It hits all the right boxes from the character development to the way the story is structured, and the tale of three arguing men who are stuck in a tiny box at sea making friends before two of them are brutally murdered by a shark, is a good one. While the effect may be a bit dulled because the movie is so iconic now, that shouldn't take away from the clear talent and merit in this film.

Jaws 2 is kind of like the runty not-as-smart little brother of the first one. There are a few kinda nice scenes here and there, but it seriously drags. Also, the whole plot is just redundant as hell. The same people who saw the shark wreak havoc in the first movie seemingly all got amnesia and now are skeptical that it could happen again. It's about as believable as the worst conspiracy theories you ever heard.

Jaws 3 is an asinine film that comes off like a fourth-rate Friday the 13th film with a shark instead of the usual slasher. The setting in the Sea World amusement park is hilariously awful corporate cock-sucking on a level that would be ridiculed even now. It's like if they made a Halloween sequel where Michael went and killed people in a Walmart. Is the fantasy here that having people killed in a movie at your park would somehow draw better publicity? Not sure that's how it works, bucko.

And that brings us to this one, which is pretty funny after the previous 12 years of mishaps that someone really thought they could pull this off. Did anyone seriously look at this script and go 'yeah, sounds awesome'? I just don't know.

The movie begins with shots of a town at Christmastime, the perfect setting for a shark attack movie, where the Brody family still lives. If you're thinking you're gonna see Roy Scheider again – well, sorry, that doesn't happen. But at least we get the rest of the family! Wait, where are you going? Why are you running away?!?

And don't get me wrong – Lorraine Gary as Ellen Brody is a talented actress, and the others in the movie are fine too. But it's just not very interesting to watch them because the other Brodys were never the real focus of Jaws. Roy Scheider's Sheriff Brody was a cool character to watch because of, and solely because of, his hunt for the shark. We don't really need to see the continuing history of the Brody family after that.

So the plot begins when the younger Brody son is eaten by a shark while out on the water doing his job as a cop. Obviously, the family is crushed by this. Hell, when the other son gets there, you can see how distressed Ellen is because she's standing with her back to them outside, facing the water in an extremely cliché way. That's some real grief there. So real, you guys.

"It started raining hailstones the size of trucks, but we still didn't bring her in. She has been out there for days."
Shouldn't you be used to this by now? Geez. Get over it!

Later on, she tells the family at dinner some very troubling things that make me think she's ready to go to a nursing home. Number one is that the family should stay away from the water from now on. Well, no shit. I think we should go a step further – the whole town needs to move. I mean holy shit; three movies of sharks attacking and terrorizing them, and they still live here in this fucking town. Not to presume anything about peoples' motives, but there's got to be some kind of point where you go “okay, time to move before I get eaten by a shark.” The level of willful denial involved here is more than most serial killers need to convince themselves they're doing God's work.

The other one, which defines the film, is when she asserts very clearly that she thinks the shark is “hunting” her family for revenge. Her familiy specifically. Yeah, I remember the day in marine biology class when I learned that sharks had a capacity to want to enact revenge on people. That's just how life is – some days you're doing fine and other days, a shark wants to kill you for killing its family members. That's called the Shark Mafia, and they are ruthless motherfuckers.

She also says her husband – Sheriff Brody from the first one – died of fear of the shark. I love the delivery the actor playing the son goes with to say “Ma, he died of a heart attack!” But really, the main thing about this scene is the “fear” that killed the courageous main character of the first Jaws. I guess after two movies fighting that thing, the PTSD caught up with him. Maybe it was constipated PTSD and just took a while to come out.

But seriously – I do get what the movie was going for. They were trying to have some kind of character development here. But that's a bit difficult when Roy Scheider wasn't in the movie. Like talking about someone who left a party an hour ago, trying to convince everyone else they were cool.

The movie just kind of rambles on after that. I guess they go to the Bahamas so Ellen can heal, or something, and that's where she meets Michael Caine, the only British man in the Bahamas.

"I've been on Quaaludes ever since filming started!" 

She also continues to espouse her rational belief that one shark is out for revenge against the family by telling her granddaughter not to play on a rope, because the family needs to indulge her rampant paranoia and likely senility. The other kids around the rope are thankful for it, anyway – they're just glad that crazy white girl isn't playing with their rope anymore. Paranoid Grandma was good for that much anyway.

A lot of the rest is just Ellen and Michael Caine hangin' out. The two share a couple of nice scenes together, and the acting is fine, but again – why should I care? They're not really that good characters, and in a Jaws sequel, this isn't something I want to see. This isn't some Lifetime movie about two elderly people bonding, it's a fucking Jaws movie. Like yes...I totally needed a scene of these characters hanging out at a casino. That's what I think of when I think of Jaws.

"I'm gonna need more than this to get through the movie!"

Michael Caine also has several scenes flying a small plane, which he lets the daughter sit in his lap and pretend fly it while he does ridiculous dive bombs and stunts like a daredevil. It would have been funny if Caine's ridiculous plane stunts ended up crashing the plane. After all, any movie with a killer shark just needs more damage being done. I live for this bloodthirsty, indiscriminate carnage. What will kill the Brody family? A mad Englishman in a plane or a shark? The suspense is just killing me.

"Heh heh heh...I haven't been sober since 1963, and somehow I'm allowed to fly planes!"

Maybe if Michael Caine was the shark, in disguise, then it would be funny. But unfortunately they didn't have the budget to buy a Michael Caine suit for the shark to dress up in, so they had to nix that.

There are also scenes of Brody's son and his wife having arguments about money and how she doesn't want him to work out on the water doing science stuff anymore. Then they have sex in a tool shed in broad daylight right in front of the windows. Awesome. That scene was totally worth filming.

Does she burn his balls with that blowtorch?

After some more boring scenes in which Brody's son gets trapped underwater with the shark and somehow survives without a scratch because these movies are allergic to having any real tension, we get the climax. First there's the award Brody's wife gets on the beach for the sculpture she did. The shark wants to join in on the festivities too, and so it shows up like a big lunkhead and tries to join in by eating someone who has no connection to the Brodys.


Ellen of course sees this as a clear sign that the shark IS out to get the Brody family, and so she plays Captain Ahab and goes out alone on a boat to kill the shark. She has zero experience hunting sharks, but so what? Who needs any experience doing something that dangerous?

One wealthy, weak white lady against a man-eating shark on a mission...wait, no, it still doesn't sound like a good movie when you put it that way.

Her son finds out and teams up with a co-worker of his and Michael Caine, who was just coincidentally sort of hanging out nearby in a boat, where I'm sure he was doing copious amounts of quality British cocaine. He takes them up in his plane, and they go and find Ellen to fight the shark. It's a woefully long and boring fight scene with the shark just flailing around like a blow-up pool toy and the main characters scream like they're being castrated to make up for the lack of drama the shark brings.

The only real funny part is when the co-worker guy, who has been completely annoying for the entire film, gets eaten by the shark but later is revealed to have survived.

Eh, he's okay...no, really.

What, really? Either that guy was so asinine of a person that the shark just coughed him up whole immediately, or the shark really is just a pool toy and had no actual teeth or digestive system.

Aw, look, it's actually kinda cute.

Also, we get a bunch of scenes of Ellen Brody "remembering" all these moments lifted from the earlier films, which are shown in sepia tone, like the past always was in. Man, that's some prime-grade nostalgia for you! Movies may have colors that persuade you otherwise, but make no mistake - up until the late 1990s, the entire world was just in a permanent sepia-tone filter. Ask your parents. They might act coy and try to deny it out of respect for your fragile frame of mind, but it's true and they won't be able to deny it for long.

Fuck that, even memories from any time you weren't there were sepia toned! This movie really gets it. Also it's not weird at all that she remembers stuff that she never saw. Nope. Not at all!

This movie isn't fit to be shark food for even the lamest sharks. Its story is ridiculous from the start and the characters just aren't very interesting. The effects are bad and there are no good scares or thrills. I never got the impression anyone was terribly inspired to be making this. It strikes me mostly as a movie made just to churn out another sequel, because hey, they made three other ones, so how bad of a risk can it be? All I can say is – I'm glad we don't just get stuck with shitty summer movies like this one anymore.

Luckily, all hope is not lost, though – because Michelle and I saw a theatrical performance of an original script kinda based around Jaws. It was called Jaws: The Movie: The Musical, and it played at the Orlando Fringe Festival here in Florida. The story was about a bunch of playwriters trying to put together an idea for a musical really quick. Bereft of good ideas, they take the easy way out and make a musical about Jaws. So it's a play about a musical being made about a movie based on a book. If that isn't meta enough for you...I'll eat this review.

The whole thing was a lot of fun and very tongue in cheek. The humor was of the bawdy sort that makes most people laugh big and loud on hot summer afternoons after long work-weeks – lots of simple but effective jokes about sex and work and other such things. The actors were full of personality, and the story moved along with a bouncy verve and style that was addictive to watch. The whole thing only lasted about an hour, and I could have watched even more.

I guess it wasn't very much about Jaws itself – though there was a very entertaining musical number where one cast member played a sharks' rights advocate who was protesting the musical being made. The play was mostly just about show business in general, and the folly of hack writers and producers putting out garbage for money – one of its main motifs is “it doesn't have to be good!” as sung by the bigwig producer character. Beneath the more sophomoric humor, there was some pretty good satire going on of the mindsets of those who just churn out mediocre sequels and adaptations just to have them out, just to get money coming in.

Y'know. Like Jaws: The Revenge.

Not sure how you can actually track this down, as it was an original production just at the Fringe Festival here. But you can certainly go support your local theater in putting out cool stuff like this. Hell, it's a thousand times better than Jaws sequels at any rate.

Images copyright of their original owners; I own none of them.