Written by: Thunder Levin
Directed by: Anthony C. Ferrante
Starring: Ian Ziering, Tara Reid, and Cassandra Scerbo
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman (@brettgallman)
"It's not space I'm worried about. It's the sharks."
Yeah, shit, I guess weíre doing this. I know I swore off this series after Sharknado 2, likening it to Freddy Krueger in a vain attempt to deny it of its power. But itís not like it worked considering they made six of these goddamn things, and, I have to be honest: it bugs me to start something and not finish it, plus itís not like most of the other SyFy stuff released in its wake has been much better. Thatíll teach me to try and prove a point. Anway, Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! dutifully arrived a year following the first sequel, once again trying to claim the mantle of the live-tweet/snark event of the summer in 2015, which now feels like an actual eternity ago. Iíd say the world had more important things to do at that time, like squashing a fascistís attempt at ascending to the White House on the back of a white nationalist movement, but we all saw how that turned out. So many of us tried to snark that away too, leading us to a valuable conclusion: donít treat politics the same way you would a Sharknado movie.
Is this connection a stretch? Well, you tell me. Sharknado 3 opens in Washington DC, where series hero Fin Shepard (Ian Ziering) is set to receive the Medal of Freedom from President Mark Cuban (which now seems much less far fetched but only slightly more desirable) before yet another sharknado descends on the nationís capital and wreaks havoc. Itís part of a mega storm system sprawling over the eastern seaboard, stretching all the way down to Florida, where Finís family is on vacation at Universal studios. After hitching a ride with old ally Nova (Cassandra Scerbo), Fin once again positions himself to save the day with an assist from both his trusty chainsaw and his estranged father (David Hasselhoff).
What follows is the same old shit. You certainly canít knock this series for not pandering to expectations because it absolutely delivers everything you expect from a Sharknado: broad performances, increasingly farcical plot developments, ridiculous cameos, all of it served up with a big wink and invitation for you to trash it on Twitter. As is customary, the effects are laughably bad on purpose because a sharknado is supposed to be ridiculous, so the movie flings poorly-rendered CGI sharks and splatters some obviously digital blood. Itís basically a live-action cartoon but doesnít feature much wit or cleverness at all. The joke, as always, is the premise itself: ďcan you believe we actually made this shit?Ē it asks, all from the comfort of its calculating, corporate perch. Sharknado is the antithesis of daring filmmaking: if it lands with a thud, well, itís titled Sharknado. If it finds an audience that really only tunes in to mock it, well, itís titled Sharknado.
But Iíve said this a bunch, so much so that pretty much any review for one of these things has to come with the disclaimer: I get it--itís not supposed to be good, and pointing that out misses the point. So instead of dwelling on it, letís talk about some of the stuff Sharknado 3 does get right. I suppose you canít really knock it for its lack of imagination: while it doesnít have the means (or even the desire) to keep up with the wild ideas that make it on-screen, at least it has these ideas. In most cases, a low budget restricts the imagination, but Sharknado operates on a through-the-looking-glass logic where the lack of resources and quality are an excuse to just go for it. That all of this stuff looks utterly unconvincing is immaterial; what matters is that itís there, and Sharknado 3 puts a lot of it out there. One sharknado looks quaint in the face of an entire coastal system (yes, they eventually dub it a ďsharkicaneĒ), not to mention Finís eventual, wild solution to jet into space in order to dissipate the storm.
Thereís also a weirdly infectious quality to the characters. I donít know if itís Stockholm Syndrome or the natural result of following characters for multiple movies, but you gather a sense of attachment amongst the cast. However cynical the intentions were behind producing Sharknado in the first place, it seems to me Ziering, Reid, and Scerbo at least give it their all. Something about this family is wholesome, even if the entire joke is that Fin is just some dude whoís mysteriously capable of handling Sharknados for some reason. Aprilís pregnancy is the big subplot in this one, and I have to admit itís the setup to an outrageous gag involving the babyís very unconventional birth. I know this movieís five years old already, but Iím not going to spoil it and rob anyone of one of the few genuinely amusing moments. Like I said, you canít knock this one for a lack of imagination, at least in some respects.
Itís just a shame that most of it still manages to be such a bore. Not that this brand of humor has ever really been my thing, but it really starts to wear thin, especially when Sharknado 3 is just going through the motions. Hereís Chris Jericho in an extended cameo; hereís Hasselhoff showing up because heís David Hasselhoff, and thatís funny; hereís a Subway joke because thatís something we did in the other movies. I donít know--I always want to meet these things halfway, but I rarely get the sense that theyíre interested in holding up their end. Iím not even sure what it would look like if they did, and the fact that they donít is kind of their thing, anyway. Sharknado always expects you to do the heavy lifting and leans on the audience to provide the real entertainment. Watching them in a vacuum--especially five years after the fact--inherently diminishes whatever appeal they might have. These movies arenít meant to just be watched; theyíre meant to be experienced with a real-time running commentary. Otherwise, youíre just left with some pretty lame shark movies with occasional bursts of inspiration that canít overcome the tangible sense of indifference guiding them. Somehow, a movie where Ian Zireng wards off sharks with a lightsaber chainsaw in space is not nearly as entertaining as it sounds. Itís criminal.
Speaking of criminal, you should never trust a movie that features cameos from Ann Coulter and Michele Bauchmann and doesnít have the good sense to feed them to the sharks. Needless to say, a lot of the cameos in this havenít aged well, and, while the filmmakers obviously couldnít anticipate Jared Fogleís issues, giving a platform to shit-stirring racists like Coutler and Bachmann was never a good look. That Sharknado 3 premiered with these two making prominent appearances just a month after Donald Trump infamously launched his campaign with a message of hatred and division feels weirdly ominous now. It unwittingly highlights the way America treated these figures as sideshow attractions instead of acknowledging just how capable they are of spreading their poison. In 2015, ďVice President Ann Coulter,Ē felt like a joke; now, Coulter-Bachmann feels like a future Republican ticket. Five years ago, Iím guessing plenty of people joked that Sharknado 3 is the only place where this sort of primordial Nazi slime should exist, a mentality that wound up being part of the problem. The truth is, even Sharknado 3 is too good for this duo--imagine that being your legacy.
Likewise, imagine being at the helm of a movie that supplants Jaws 3 as the worst shark threequel to be set at a Florida tourist attraction. In the interest of once again meeting Sharknado 3 halfway, Iím going to assume that this was an intentional, sort of clever nod in that direction. Then again, this might be me falling into the Sharknado trap, making obvious jokes at its expense: after all, something tells me it would wear an ďeven worse than Jaws 3!Ē pullquote like a badge of honor.
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