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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

SHARKTOPUS -- DVD review by porfle

"Dumb" has a new name, and that name is SHARKTOPUS (2010).  This highly-rated SyFy Original Movie, produced by legendary filmmaker Roger Corman and his wife Julie, will either make you giddy with bad-movie excitement or leave you utterly stupified.  Maybe even both.

After the success of DINOSHARK, SyFy contacted Corman about doing this film as a follow-up.  As he relates in the commentary, he initially turned it down because, while "dinosharks" might conceivably have existed in prehistoric times, the idea of a half-shark, half-octopus just seemed a little too farfetched.  (Unlike, say, giant crab monsters.)  He eventually gave in, on the condition that the creature be a product of genetic engineering rather than a freak of nature. 

Thus, we have scientist Nathan Sands (Eric Roberts) and his daughter Nicole (Sara Malakul Lane), whom he affectionately refers to as "Pumpkin", creating the dreaded Sharktopus for the military.  Pumpkin naively hopes Sharktopus will be used for good, but her sneaky dad has designed it to be a ruthless killing machine, which it demonstrates when its electronic restraints are damaged during a test and it starts eating people all up and down the coast of scenic Puerto Vallarta.  With the Navy breathing down his back, Sands hires fun-loving aquatic mercenary Andy Flynn (Kerem Bursin) to reel the big fish in and bring it back alive.

With this set-up quickly established, the film now treats us to an endless series of Sharktopus attacks with lots of tourists getting snared by the creature's tentacles right there on the shore and dragged into its toothy maw.  Several of these kills begin with an establishing montage of festive beach images and ample footage of bikini-clad babes cavorting around like monster appetizers.  When Sharktopus suddenly appears, the various bit players must then hop around screaming as the SPFX guys wrap bad-CGI tentacles around them and make with the spewing digital blood. 

The big, cartoony shark head which pops out of the water to chow down on them is highly effective--at generating laughs.  Seeing the entire mismatched monstrosity perched on a guardrail or the roof of a bamboo hut in all its writhing, snarling glory, treating the fleeing humans like a sushi buffet, is a sight you won't soon forget.  Special mention goes to the bunjee-jumping scene, which Corman tells us got the biggest response from audiences and is one of the movie's few genuinely effective moments.  (Roger and Julie's daughter guest-stars as the bouncing bait.)

With few exceptions, the performances range from awful to not-really-trying.  Mostly the actors just seem anxious to knock off their scenes and get back to partying in Puerta Vallarta.  Blake Lindsey isn't bad as Pez, a fisherman who leads TV newswoman Stacy Everheart (Liv Boughn) and her dopey cameraman Bones (Héctor Jiménez, who played Lonnie Donaho in GENTLEMEN BRONCOS) to wherever Sharktopus is likely to appear next.  As a pirate radio DJ, Ralph Garman of "The Joe Schmo Show" seems to be having fun.  Bursin and Lane make a dull main couple as Flynn and Pumpkin and could probably use a few more acting lessons. 

As for Eric Roberts, he's one of my favorite actors and I'd watch him in anything, which is fitting since these days it looks like he'll show up in anything.   Going from THE DARK KNIGHT to this must've been like falling out of a yacht into a swamp.  (Look for Roger Corman himself in a cameo as a beach bum.)

On a technical level, SHARKTOPUS is slapdash at best.  Things like camerawork, editing, and scene transitions are a dizzying jumble of ineptitude, while the subpar direction makes it hard to believe Declan O'Brien is the same guy who did such a solid job with WRONG TURN 3: LEFT FOR DEAD. 

The script, which seems to have been written on a Big Chief tablet, obviously doesn't take itself very seriously, as when Flynn offers this warning to the patrons of an open-air restaurant by the beach: "Excuse me, everyone.  There's a killer shark-octopus hybrid headed this way.  Please leave the marina in a timely fashion."  The thing is, movies like this are funnier when they aren't trying to be, so the scenes that actually mean to shock or excite us invariably provoke the most giggles. 

The DVD from Anchor Bay is in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound and subtitles in English and Spanish.  Extras include a commentary with Roger and Julie Corman plus the film's trailer. 

Any movie containing Eric Roberts, bikini babes, extras doing the imaginary-tentacle-tango, the guy who played Lonnie Donaho in GENTLEMEN BRONCOS, and one of the dumbest monsters in film history can't be all bad.  And SHARKTOPUS doesn't let up for a minute--it keeps assaulting us with undiluted stupid during its entire running time.  That's a claim some of this year's Best Picture nominees can't even make.

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