Written by: Thunder Levin
Directed by: Anthony C. Ferrante
Starring: Ian Ziering, Tara Reid, and Vivica A. Fox
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
"Even the Sharknadoes are tougher in New York."
You only have to look as far as the title of Sharknado 2 to figure out if the Asylum and Syfy pumped any more effort into this sequel: not only did it turn to its social media audience (for whom this franchise has seemingly been primed because theyíre the sort of films no one is meant to watch without ironic commentary) , but it also settled on the most banal subtitle imaginable because, you know, thatís the point: this movie is predestined to be terrible, so we might as well announce it by calling it The Second One. It canít sound more obligatory than that.
But rather than harp on how the existence of these artificial monstrosities bugs me, Iíll be as positive as I can possibly be, at least up front: yes, Sharknado 2 is an improvement over the original, much in the same way a kick in the gut might be better than a kick to the teeth. At least it doesnít hurt to laugh a little at this one, which actually earns a handful of chuckles and goes a bit more all-in on the ludicrous concept.
But donít get me wrong: it still mostly sucks for many of the same reasonsóit just sucks a tiny bit less. This time, the action shifts to New York, as the previous filmís survivors (Ian Ziering and Tara Reid) head to the Big Apple to visit family. Before they can even arrive, their airplane is caught in another sharknado; after a miraculous landing, they hit the city only to learn that an even bigger storm system is imminent, so the group of friends and extended family are forced to scurry about town in order to survive.
If nothing else, I suppose Sharknado 2 tries the tiniest bit harder, at least in terms of going way over the top early and often enough that it moves along at a reasonable clip. Granted, a lot of it is base and obvious ďhumorĒ in the way of stunt-casting (this is a veritable parade of celebrities ranging from Subway Jared to Al Roker to Kurt Angle) and completely absurd sequences (including one where Ziering plays Frogger with sharks, and, yes, they point out that he jumped the shark, which would be funny if this particular franchise hadnít already skyrocketed over the shark upon arrival). The film shares a lot of DNA with Machete Kills, which isnít a flattering comparison since that film confirmed just how out-of-touch Robert Rodriguez is with this grindhouse throwback monstrosity he co-created; where his Machete struck a nice balance between tongue-in-cheek humor and a real commitment towards making a bloody romp, the sequel feels more like the dumb, outrageously cheap, lazy cash-ins that believe exploitation films are inherently bad yuk-fests.
Forgive the tangent, but Sharknado is exactly like that is what Iím saying. By now, Iíve ranted against these types of films enough, but it bears repeating: movies like Sharknado 2 suck because itís paradoxically trying too hard by not trying hard enough, at least as it pertains to stuff that really matters, like effects work, cinematography, editing, and writing (read: filmmaking). Making a movie like Sharknado is easy if youíre going to skimp on the effects and make that the butt of an easy joke. I submit that the real challenge would be making a movie like Sharknado and giving enough of a shit to make it decent without so much as blinking or expecting your audience to mock it for its badness. I almost canít wait to live in a post-ironic world where someone attempts to earnestly reboot Sharknado into a good movie. Or maybe that would actually be the height of irony. This is can be exhausting.
But in the interest in meeting Sharknado halfway (or like nine-tenths of the way), Iíll commend it on its flashes mediocrity. A recurring gag involving the Weather Channel and the Today Show providing completely deadpan updates about the situation; in the wake of the first film, this is apparently a world where shark-storms have entered the meteorological lexicon. Some of its more outrageous flourishes are also difficult to deny: the chainsaw stuff from the previous movie is amped up to broader levels, as is the goofy method of dispersing the storm (sometimes, slingshot firebombs are not enough!). And, at one point, fiery sharks rain from the heavens, which maybe sounds even better than the fire tornadoes from Into the Storm until you consider that the latter is the brainchild of folks who actually care enough to make sure the execution matches the concept.
You donít get a lot of that with The Asylum, though (youíre almost in awe whenever they throw you a bone with some practical gore). You really want to admire this studioís audacity at timesóeven the very idea of a Sharknado 2 is something Iíd like to get behind (if only The Asylum would really get behind it, of course). Itís still a long way from even approaching decency, but the sequel is at least a step closer to capturing the right, dopey tone. With one round under their belts, returning stars Ziering and Reid muster the sort of oblivious enthusiasm necessary for a movie like this; thereís something especially endearing about Zieringís character, who has evolved from ordinary surfer dude to the only guy on Earth capable of doing battle with sharknados. At least the film has the decency to never blink at that (also, it boasts Tiffany Shepis amongst its ranksóhard to be mad about that).
I donít know if there are many more positives about Sharknado 2, to be honest. In some ways, this is the damnedest, trickiest type of franchise to deal with: insisting it sucks is to state the obvious, and totally panning and dismissing it is to fall prey to The Asylumís game. Thatís exactly what youíre supposed to do. Maybe a more appropriate course of action would be to totally ignore it, thus making it the Freddy Krueger of killer shark movies. Donít let it feed off of your snark and give it power. Thatís probably overstating things a bit; after all, Krueger at least had some ambition. Iím not sure what The Asylum hasótheir reach constantly exceeds their grasp, yet theyíre not really reaching with very much effort. How ambitious can someone be if their only goal is to turn exploitation into an even cheaper commodity? Rent it!
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