PIRANHA 3D – Blu-ray review

Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly was quoted as saying “It’s Jaws gone wild!” when discussing Piranha 3D. By ‘gone wild,’ I’m certain that my fellow reviewer was comparing Alexandre Aja’s 3D remake of the 1978 Joe Dante camp classic to the popular video series Girls Gone Wild. That series is all about beautiful bare breasts and Piranha 3D goes as far as having one of the major subplots being the film of a “Wild” porno video. There are a plethora of bare breasts and porn actress Riley Steele and Playboy girl Kelly Brook provide one of the most stunning underwater sequences ever filmed. The comparison to Jaws is fair as well and considering that Richard Dreyfuss appears in a role that should remind others of his role in Jaws. Both characters were named Matt and on his radio in the boat he listens to the song he sung in Jaws. I must agree in saying that Piranha 3D is definitely a mix of Jaws and Girls Gone Wild.

There is a target audience for Piranha 3D and that is the male viewer who would have immediately raised an eyebrow when asked if he thought parodying Jaws with the Girls Gone Wild girls would be a great idea. Thankfully, the filmmakers hit their mark with a bullseye and every element of Piranha 3D comes together nicely if you don’t try and take the film seriously. There is plenty of gore. There are some cheeky one liners. There are tits. The filmmakers took every step necessary to insure that there would be enough gore, one liners and boobs to satisfy their target audience. Get everybody out of the water when the piranhas are attacking? Nope. Not in this film, the more people in the drink and the better the smorgasbord for the fishies. Wet T-Shirt contest? Check. Hot chicks licking each other? Check. Regurgitated penis? Check. Well, maybe we could have done without that one.

I knew what to expect going into my screening of Piranha 3D. I wasn’t expecting the story to compare to what was done with Jaws and was expecting something more in line with the original Piranha. Screenwriters Peter Goldfinger and Josh Stolberg stole some of the more entertaining scenes from Jaws and threw in more gore and nudity in an effort that was not veiled one bit. I wouldn’t even call this film a parody or blatant rip off of Jaws. It is just a testosterone filled homage that is an absolute blast to watch. It’s cheesy. It’s campy. It’s what I was expecting. There is too much adrenaline and fervor in this movie to not like it. Then again, I’m a thirtysomething male who thinks there is no such thing as too much gore and is not opposed to gratuitous nudity.

Piranha 3D isn’t just about two beautiful women swimming nude to the “Flower Duet.” It stars a number of bankable stars and I’m surprised at the quality of cast that came out for this film. Elisabeth Shue plays the town’s sheriff in the role made famous by Roy Scheider. Jerry O’Connell finally moved out of Joe’s Apartment and plays porn filmmaker Derrick Jones. Ving Rhames and Dr. Emmett Brown have roles in the film. Well, this time around Christopher Lloyd is Dr. Carl Goodman and his involvement is pure entertainment. Richard Dreyfuss is sacrificed very early in the film. Dina Meyer and Eli Roth have bit roles. Paul Sheer, Cody Longo and Adam Scott are familiar faces with roles in the film. Sheer is very funny as the assistant to O’Connell.

So what does work with Piranha 3D? The movie is more than just wonderfully gratuitous nudity and an overindulgence of gore. Aja has a firm understanding of what is fun and the screenwriters did a wonderful job of providing a story that allows the director and the cast to just run with the sillyness of the whole affair and have fun. The acting is fairly decent and the constant reminders and homages to Jaws are pulled off wonderfully. The effects are pretty good and the story is at least average. There is a little drama before the attacks and while I would have loved to hear the Jawstheme signal an attack, the fish don’t need a score. There is “Piranha Vision” to help out with the impending attacks and misses. Simply put, this movie is put together nicely and a lot of fun.

Are there flaws in Piranha 3D? Yes. This is far from being the perfect horror film, but it is a refreshing entry in the genre. The pacing was a little off as the first part of the film was very slow in introducing further gore and nudity. Some of the frenetic feeding of the piranha is done too fast to be enjoyed and the body count could have been higher. Most of the characters are thinly developed and the romance between main character Jake (Steven R. McQueen) and Kelly (Jessica Szohr) never feels right and forced. “She’s not even my girlfriend” gets old after the first time it was muttered. Watching Ving Rhames do his best Timothy Balme impersonation with a boat motor is comical, but lacks the fun of watching Balme’s Lionel mow down zombies in “Braindead.” It’s a great fun film, but Piranha 3Dcould have been improved.

The film begins with an earthquake that releases the piranha and Matt “not Hooper” has the meat stripped from his bones. From there, the movie is all about watching two beautiful women get naked and a few people devoured by piranha. Two kids get stuck on an island and that gets a little important to the story, but is one of the less interesting plot points of the film. The characters are a lot of fun and I can’t begin to describe the cheesy smile that crept upon my face when Carl Goodman says that the piranha they are fighting are just babies. Piranha 3DD is coming later this year and it will be a lot of fun. One way to gauge a horror film is the excitement over the prospect of a sequel and I’ll definitely be looking forward to mommy and daddy piranhas. I just hope Lloyd is back.

Piranha 3D is full of excess. Eli Roth has a cameo for a wet t-shirt contest as the feeding frenzy begins and the camera gets an eyeful of lovely ladies minutes before the water turns blood red. Riley Steele and Kelly Brook were not needed for this film, but I can’t think of a single male who would object to their involvement in the film and for those with the Blu-ray will enjoy chapter six. There is a ton of gore and some of it is very over the top. O’Connell loses everything from the waist down and looking at bones with the flesh torn off is used repeatedly and it is gory. Aja went for over the top and he succeeded, but he did it in a way that makes it feel perfect in Piranha 3D. It’ll be hard to find a major release film with more gore and gratuitous nudity than this one, but I sure hope the sequel tops it.

Video:

After filming was completed, somebody thought it would be fun to adapt the film into 3D technology for even more camp fun and while movies such as Clash of the Titans and Avatar: The Last Airbenderlooked poor in 3D post conversion, Piranha 3Dlooks fairly good. Unfortunately, Piranha 3D isn’t the best looking Blu-ray 3D release and the 2:40:1 release exhibits more crosstalk “ghosting” than any other release I’ve yet to watch on the format. I had to tweak around with my television set to limit the problem, but it is definitely not mastered to the extent that “Avatar,” “Cloudy with a Touch of Meatballs” and others are. It may be a touch better than “My Bloody Valentine,” but I wasn’t as excited about the 3D effect with this film. The opening titles, a certain anchor scene and some background elements are all victims of crosstalk.

Aside from the ghosting problems of the transfer, the film does look decent in high definition Blu-ray. You can watch this release in either 2D or 3D and I watched some of the nicer scenes in 2D after witnessing the movie in 3D. Chapter six looks great in either format. Colors are very good and considering that much of the movie is filmed during a fictitious spring break, there are colorful swimsuits galore. This is a very colorful movie. There are tons of sunshine and very little darkness. The undersea lake was dark, but it looked pretty good. Sometimes the film gets too busy and objects are harder to follow and this was a rare example where putting on the motion settings on my 240Mhz television really helped clean up the motion artifacts. Detail is very good and you’d be amazed at how clear chapter six is. There were not digital artifacts that I could see, It’s just a shame this movie didn’t nail the 3D mastering.

Audio:

Piranha 3D is mastered in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English. It’s a mix that is uneven. There are times when it is very aggressive and there is audio coming from every direction. Jumping piranha can fill a room with sound. Spring Break is a noisy time. Other moments are quieter and you can hear the water splash as young ladies jump in. Audio moves nicely between channels and the mix does a great job of keeping dialogue audible over the action. Bass response is good and the underwater scene where three divers meet their doom shook the subwoofer hard. Most of the musical score of Piranha 3D is an urban mix that features Public Enemy, Shawyze and a whole host of artists I have never heard of. “Bring the Noise” and the “Flower Duet” were the only songs I was familiar with. They do sound very good and the mix handles them well. While the audio didn’t blow me away, I can’t say I was unhappy with it.

Extras:

Piranha 3D comes on one BD-50 platter and includes both 2D & 3D film versions. The disc boots and features a handful of 2D trailers that must be skipped individually. I was surprised that the Resident Evil: Afterlife trailer was not in 3D. The bumper for Blu-ray didn’t even mention the Blu-ray 3D format. The menus for Piranha 3D are featured in 2D, as are the supplements. Only the feature film is available in 3D. The Commentary with Producer/Director Alexandre Aja, Producer Gregory Levasseur and Producer Alik Taylor is included and can be watched regardless of how many dimensions you select. It is a good commentary track and listening to it certainly gives you an idea of what the goals for this film where and how they went about meeting and exceeding those goals. Previews simply replays the clips you had to painfully skip in the beginning and if you select this you must skip through them again. Access to BD-Live is also provided.

Don’t Scream, Just Swim: Behind-the-Scenes of Piranha 3D (2:09:38) is a series of ten featurettes on the making of the film. They can be played collectively and this is essentially one documentary broken into parts. The individual chapters are “Welcome to Piranha,” “Aja, Cast & Story,” “Lake Victoria,” “Spring Break,” “Blood & Gore,” “Special FX & Stunts,” “The Music,” “Piranha & Visual FX,” “Why 3D?” and “Last Bites.” Collectively, this is a full length making of documentary that looks at nearly every aspect of the production. It provides great insight into the whole feature and the filmmakers and cast all lend some time to talk about the film. Thankfully, this is just as R-Rated as the film and while there is some back patting, it does provide some very good look behind the scenes for this film.

Closing:

Director Alexandre Aja says how he wanted to make an Eighties “Guilty Pleasure” movie and he succeeded brilliantly. This movie was a pure rush and a thrill ride and is good enough that you don’t have to consider it a guilty pleasure. Yes, it has more tits and gore than anything in recent years, but it is done rather tastefully and the entire movie is just good clean fun. I was never disappointed with this film and felt it was one of the funner (yes, I consider that a word) films of the year. I’m really looking forward to the Double-D sequel. The disc features a very lengthy making of film and a good commentary track. The only downside was the less than stellar 3D mastering, but it’s serviceable and I’m sure as the technology improves, this will be less of an issue. My Samsung UN46C8000 set is not one of the first generation LED sets and has already improved with a firmware update, but this is one of two films I have that are not up to snuff with 3D mastering.

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