Could a movie like Piranha 3D (not to mention Piranha 3DD) get made today? It’s a weird thing to think about, considering it came out in the same decade we’re currently in. But making a movie with such overt male horndog elements to it was pushing it in 2010, and now feels even more in line with the B-movie tropes of a completely different era. Though, that does hint at how enjoyable the film is if you don’t take it too seriously (which it clearly doesn’t want you to), since this is exactly the kind of dumb fun that your inner 13-year-old will thank you for.
Piranha 3D begins with a weird homage to Jaws (the original 1979 Piranha was a Jaws riff) in the form of a Richard Dreyfuss cameo, who is attacked by a mysterious swarm of chompy little fishies. We then meet Jake Forrester (Steven R. McQueen), who just wants to party with all the tourists and frat bros flocking to his beachside town on Lake Victoria. Unfortunately, he has to babysit his little siblings while his sheriff mom, Julie (Elizabeth Shue) is on the job. However, this doesn’t stop him from meeting up with the sleazy porn director Derrick Jones (Jerry O’Connell), who seems to be a parody of Joe Francis, that pervert who created Girls Gone Wild.While Jake shows Derrick around Lake Victoria, his mom goes diving with some seismologists to find out why people have gone missing on the lake. After two of the scientists get devoured by piranhas, Julie narrowly escapes with the help of Novack (a barely pre-Parks and Rec Adam Scott). They then go meet up with Christopher Lloyd, who plays a marine biologist warning everyone that this species of piranha hasn’t been seen in thousands of years and will gobble up anything in sight. Not long after, the piranhas start attacking the Spring Breakers partying in Lake Victoria, while the film devolves into a flurry of boobs and blood.
Despite the fact that Piranha 3D is undoubtedly a comedy, it does have some incredibly horrific imagery for how tongue-in-cheek it is. Just the way these piranhas go about killing is something unsettling, considering the way they all furiously nibble away at a body until we see the bones hiding underneath the remaining chewed up bits of flesh. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve seen another movie in which so many characters have the bottom halves of their bodies gnawed off.
Thankfully, the movie gets more creative with its kills in the second half when things really go off the rails. You’ve got a topless woman being sliced in half, Eli Roth getting decapitated by a boat, and a woman’s whole face getting ripped off by a boat engine. Oh, and then of course there’s the iconic scene of piranhas tearing apart Jerry O’Connell’s severed penis after he recites the immortal line “Jake, they took my penis”. I can only imagine how much fun I would’ve had seeing this in actual 3D. Then again, in our initial review, Sean doesn’t make it sound like the 3D added much.
Needless to say, Piranha 3D knows what it is. It’s stupid, immature, and incredibly gory. But because it knows what its depraved audience wants, and because it fits it all into a tight 88 minutes (though the sheer amount of nudity could’ve been trimmed a bit), it gets away with being so trashy. In fact, it’s a movie that does such a good job of not quite overstaying its welcome, that you have to wonder if they made Piranha 3DD based solely on the “genius” title, and not much else.