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Movie Review

Piranha 3D

‘Piranha 3D’ showcases T&A: teeth and awfulness

Spring break revelers turn into fish food in “Piranha 3D.’’ Spring break revelers turn into fish food in “Piranha 3D.’’ (The Weinstein Company via Ap)
By Wesley Morris
Globe Staff / August 21, 2010

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The 3-D in “Piranha 3D’’ means that objects will float close to your face. Given how many of those objects are braless breasts, 3-D may as well be a new cup size. (The fake ones go nicely with the plastic glasses.) The most fun to be had comes courtesy of the inevitable posses of boys in flip-flops, cargo shorts, baseball caps, and T-shirts, who fall over each other on the way out of the theater: “Dude, I could almost touch them.’’ One imagines that for this movie’s $14.50, a different field trip could be arranged to do away with “almost.’’

But this passes for a lapdance for fake ID holders. A nominal remake of Joe Dante’s 1978 nature thriller of roughly the same name (screenplay by John Sayles!), “Piranha 3D’’ assembles an assortment of the obnoxious and edible for computer-generated feeding frenzies. The plot is of no concern. Young people. Boats. Mmm.

The names of Elisabeth Shue, Ving Rhames, and, doing the year’s worst acting, Jerry O’Connell, appear in the opening credits before those of younger people you’ve never heard of. Christopher Lloyd dons a thin mustache and explains the mutant fish using only exclamation points: “This particular piranha vanished off the face of the Earth more that two million years ago!’’

The movie does seem to speak to our lingering recession — and mustn’t it? These actors have cellphone bills, too. Shue plays the town sheriff and mother to our flavorless hero (Steven R. McQueen, Steve’s grandson) and two towheaded child actors you really wouldn’t mind seeing chewed to bits. After she’s dragged the first mangled body from filthy Lake Victoria (“Jaws’’ alert: It’s Richard Dreyfuss’s), she considers closing the lake. But Deputy Rhames sees revenue. For it is spring break. A team of seismologists is on the scene, and a boat crosses the lake while shooting Internet porn. If what you’ve been craving is two nude women rubbing chests underwater while the lilting opera of Léo Delibes’s Lakmé fills the soundtrack, then you are Penthouse magazine’s most cultured subscriber.

The film’s centerpiece is a massacre at a wet T-shirt contest, which the horror director Alexandre Aja has a good time staging (yes, Eli Roth, we see you with the water gun). But it feels like an imitation of B-movie beach schlock and John Waters. The visual humor lacks wit or nerve. A shot of the floating penis would have been funnier had the movie built a joke around it. Instead, it’s another hovering digital prop. The hateful final shot makes it possible for Aja to strike again, perhaps in a new location. A movie this adolescently dirty-minded could hardly pass up a chance to go to Lake Titicaca.

Wesley Morris can be reached at wmorris@globe.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/wesley_morris.

PIRANHA 3D

Directed by: Alexandre Aja

Written by: Josh Stolberg and Pete Goldfinger

Starring: Steven R. McQueen, Elisabeth Shue, Ving Rhames, Jerry O’Connell, and Christopher Lloyd

At: Boston Common, Fenway, suburbs

Running time: 89 minutes

Rated: R (sequences of strong bloody horror violence and gore, graphic nudity, sexual content, language, some drug use, fish that out-eat and out-party their human prey)

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