Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Definition of Gratuitous

There is absolutely nothing in the new film Piranha 3D that could be called "socially redeeming." It doesn't have a message. It doesn't teach a lesson. It doesn't preach. It doesn't get all artsy with its camerawork. It doesn't even have much of a story, clocking in at a very brief 82 minutes.

But those 82 minutes are entertaining.

Director Alexandre Aja, who filmed one of my favorite horror movies of the last decade, Haute Tension, knew exactly what type of movie he was making, and he delivered: the most cheerfully gratuitous major studio film in a long time (maybe ever). There are scenes in this film that have no real business being in the movie other than to deliver a shock, a scare, or just to titillate. How else to describe the slow motion nude underwater ballet (I'm not kidding) between two lovely ladies? Or the chomped-off privates of a cast member, floating directly toward you in all their 3D glory? Or Eli Roth's cameo as the emcee of a wet t-shirt contest?

But wait, there's more. Any self-respecting fan of movies will grin from ear to ear at the opening scene, with a big-name actor sending up a famous role by singing several bars of a well-known song from his big-name film. (The character's name was just icing on the cake.) How can you not laugh out loud at a movie like this? And not maliciously, either.

Piranha 3D doesn't take itself seriously at all, which makes it a guilty pleasure of the highest order. The story, something about prehistoric piranha unleashed on an unsuspecting spring break crowd, is merely setup for one of the single most eye-popping displays of special effects bloodwork ever seen on screen. And now we're back to the definition of gratuitous. But I'm in full complimentary mode, folks. Really.

This will be a hard movie to defend. All I can say is, it's fast, fun, and in your face. Leave your brain at the door and you'll have a good time. Don't forget to pick it up afterward. 9 out of 10 stars.

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