Ridiculous, spoofy "Piranha 3DD" doubles the flesh and carnage, and it's fun
Piranha 3DD (2012)
83 min., rated R.
"Piranha," Joe Dante's 1978 tongue-in-cheek B-movie, actually started as a parody of Steven Spielberg's "Jaws" before being remade in-name-only as 2010's "Piranha 3D," a giddy, unapologetic explosion of Double Bees (boobs and blood). If its sequel, "Piranha 3DD" (that's Three Double Dee, as in 3-D and mammary glands), succeeds as anything, it does as a fun, shamelessly stupid guilty-pleasure. Whereas its predecessor delivered the gimmick of stereoscopy with bouncy breasts a-go-go and gallons of blood while maintaining a humorous tone without collapsing into straight parody, "Piranha 3DD" ups the ante with a sillier, spoofier, even more over-the-top sensibility. When a dead cow farts, letting out eggs of piranhas, you know the filmmakers are going for as much subtlety as a cannonball. Now, do they double the fun? In fits and starts.
Following the Lake Victoria massacre of pretty young things torn up by a once-extinct species of piranha, the Spring Break capital sits as a "silent and dead" quarantine zone. Just in time for the anniversary of the carnage, will it happen again, and if so, where? Once some new piranhas hatch, they're migrating through the drainage system of Merkin, Arizona, and what a great opportunity as the local water park called The Big Wet is set to open! To the horror of his level-headed marine-biologist stepdaughter Maddy (Danielle Panabaker) who's back for the summer, sleazy half-owner Chet (played by sleaze David Koechner) has hired water-certified strippers as lifeguards and put in an "adult pool," complete with a "cooch cam." (The water park's tagline is "No one gets you wetter" after all.) As Maddy's horny friends start getting picked off, the heroine and her two potential love interests—shady deputy ex-boyfriend Kyle (Chris Zylka) and nice platonic friend Barry (Matt Bush) who can't swim—seek help from crazy-eyed ichthyologist Carl Goodman (Christopher Lloyd), who wouldn't put it past the prehistoric piranhas to swim through the pipes and into the chlorinated pool water. Can she convince her stupid stepdad to shut down "the hottest hole" (his words) before all the patrons become bloody chum? Gee, what do you think?
Even if the desperation and strain for inventing gross-outs are pretty apparent the second time around, "Project Greenlight"-winning director John Gulager (2005's "Feast") and the trio of screenwriters (Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan, Joel Soisson) are well aware of what kind of movie he's making. If lots of silicone bouncing isn't enough proof of his flippant intentions, Gulager gleefully throws good taste to the winds with all the nasty, splattery carnage. Remember, any character that has sex is a dead man/woman, and if anyone displays a personality of douchery, you know they'll get theirs. After one character says, "Let's take off all our clothes and go swimming," we know a hideous fate is in store. In a twist on "vagina dentata," one of Maddy's hot friends, the virginal Shelby (Katrina Bowden), is punished by having one of the toothy swimmers shimmy up her hoo-ha and then engaging in coitus with her ill-fated boyfriend, who gets a lot more than he bargained for. Bowden delivers a blunt line thereafter that amusingly sums up the whole incident. Another couple, before having premarital sex with pink, furry handcuffs, meets a watery death when their van inadvertently drives into the infested lake. The dumbest set-piece has the hordes of piranha breaking the wooden boards of a dock, knocking two girls into the water; a scene in a bath tub recalls "A Nightmare on Elm Street" and "Slither" with a just-add-the-piranha tweak; a pair of blood-covered silicone boobs are motorboated by a severed head; and a goofy, fat pool guy who has a carnal relationship with the pool's drainage system learns the hard way. And when our heroes try putting a stop to the little monsters, slo-mo shots are set to dramatic opera music.
If none of that is enough, the biggest serving of spoofery comes in the "special appearance" of David "The Hoff" Hasselhoff, gamely playing himself as The Big Wet's celebrity lifeguard and poking lots of fun at his has-been image. When a "little ginger moron" fails to know who he is, The Hoff gladly rattles off his career credits, including "Knight Rider" and "Anaconda 3." Even the theme music to "Baywatch" is played for a gag. Still not enough? Ving Rhames cartoonishly reprises his straight role from the first movie as Elisabeth Shue's deputy whose legs were eaten by the hungry fishies. Here, he's trying to recover from his fear of the water, being pushed in a wheelchair by Jerry O'Connell's "Girls Gone Wild"-style camera man (Paul Scheer, who inexplicably disappeared last time but returns with suntan lotion on his nose again) on The Big Wet's opening day. Without an outboard motor this time, he pulls out his titanium-made legs with a shotgun attached to the stumps to fend off the ferocious bastards, finally spouting off a badass catchphrase to rival Samuel L. Jackson's "Snakes on a Plane" line. Also, off the top, the wacky Gary Busey and Clu Gulager (the director's good-sport father) get to be the piranhas' appetizer as a couple of crusty fishermen. The eclectic cast of "Piranha 3D" was filled with the likes of Elisabeth Shue, Ving Rhames, Christopher Lloyd, Jerry O'Connell, and a slew of porn stars. Of course, the only returnees here are Rhames and Lloyd (whose Goodman has 700 more YouTube hits than "The Laughing Diarhea Baby"), but outside of them and the cameos, the new cast is pretty nondescript, though easy on the eyes and competent enough to keep a straight face with the material. Panabaker makes a decent heroine as Maddy, being the sanest character with the moral sense to keep her top on, too.
The winking, self-parodic tone that director Gulager creates is a lot easier than the camp-skirting tone Alexandre Aja achieved when helming "Piranha 3D." Also, very few of the water-park kills are as clever as those in the former, and like it matters, the plotting is haphazard and sloppy. But temper your expectations to a primal experience of female nudity and body parts spewing, and you should have a good time getting what you expect. Moving well at a lickety-split 70 minutes (without the absurdly extended credits), this schlocky lark embraces its ridiculous, trashy nature, even for most of the remaining 13 minutes. Though oddly released to video on demand services and given a theatrical run in select cities (75 screens), "Piranha 3DD" belongs at the drive-in where alcohol isn't prohibited but actually recommended. It will make a riot of a drinking-game movie with friends.
Grade: B -