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Piranha DVD Review

Piranha 3D (2010) movie poster Piranha (3D)

Theatrical Release: August 20, 2010 / Running Time: 88 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Alexandre Aja / Writers: Peter Goldfinger, Josh Stolberg / Songs List

Cast: Elisabeth Shue (Sheriff Julie Forester), Adam Scott (Novak Radzinsky), Jerry O'Connell (Derrick Jones), Ving Rhames (Deputy Fallon), Jessica Szohr (Kelly Driscoll), Steven R. McQueen (Jake Forester), Dina Meyer (Paula Montellano), Christopher Lloyd (Mr. Goodman), Richard Dreyfuss (Matt Boyd), Ricardo Chavira (Sam), Kelly Brook (Danni), Paul Scheer (Andrew Cunningham), Cody Longo (Todd Dupree), Sage Ryan (Zane Forester), Brookyln Proulx (Laura Forester), Riley Steele (Crystal), Devra Korwin (Mrs. Goodman), Eli Roth (Wet T-Shirt Host), Brian Kubach (Brett), Ashlynn Brooke (Cheerleader), Gianna Michaels (Parasailing Girl)

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Because movies that are remade tend to be highly-regarded ones, remakes typically have something big to live up to. Remakes whose original sources aren't considered sacred by the general public are few and far between; they take a reduction in name familiarity along with a reduction in audience skepticism. Piranha (released theatrically as Piranha 3D) is one such remake. It is based on a 1978 film produced by B-movie king Roger Corman that marked the solo narrative directorial debut of Joe Dante,
who perhaps will eternally remain best-known for the Steven Spielberg-produced 1984 creature feature Gremlins. Even the most ardent fans of Corman and Dante must recognize that their brands of entertainment are not above reinterpretation. Following a 1981 sequel (written and directed by James Cameron) and a 1995 made-for-TV remake, 2010's Piranha was the work of French horror director Alexandre Aja (Mirrors, 2006's The Hills Have Eyes) and Sorority Row writers Peter Goldfinger and Josh Stolberg.

Dante's Piranha owed much to Spielberg's Jaws, the smash hit released three years earlier, basically recasting the giant shark with killer piranhas. Its poster paid tribute to Jaws' iconic one-sheet and this new Piranha did so even more faithfully. Aja's remake opens with about as grand an homage as conceivable to the granddaddy of underwater horror. Playing a black-capped fisherman named Matt, Richard Dreyfuss sings "Show Me the Way to Go Home." His afternoon doesn't end well, with him becoming the equivalent of Spielberg's sacrificial skinny-dipper.

Richard Dreyfuss essentially reprises his "Jaws" character Matt Hooper in the scene-setting prologue of 2010's "Piranha." Having relieved himself of babysitting, shy teen protagonist Jake Forester (Steven R. McQueen) finally gets a chance to witness Lake Victoria's bustling spring break activities.

This short prologue gives way to the main event. It's spring break and Lake Victoria, Arizona is hopping with young adult activity. Shy teenager Jake Forester (Steven R. McQueen, grandson of Steve McQueen) wants to be part of the party, but he reluctantly agrees to babysit his young brother and sister (Sage Ryan and Brookyln Proulx) while their single mom is at work. Mom (Elisabeth Shue) is the town's sheriff, who is awoken in the night to investigate Matt's disappearance. She and her deputy (Ving Rhames) are troubled by what they find, but spring break is as important to Lake Victoria as Independence Day is to Amity Island, so closing the lake is out of the question.

Paying his siblings his babysitting salary (plus a $20 "deception surcharge") to stay home and watch themselves, Jake stumbles into a location scouting job for a Girls Gone Wild-type traveling video crew headed by the scummy mogul Derrick Jones (Jerry O'Connell). Jake boards the Barracuda along with an attractive friend who's back from college (Jessica Szohr) and some bikini models (Kelly Brook, Riley Steele).

While they're out partying it up on camera, Lake Victoria's threat comes into focus for the sheriff's department and an adventurous team of seismologist divers (led by Adam Scott). The story plays out to your inevitable expectations, as the voracious flesh-eating fish wreak havoc on the spring break crowd and pose danger for Jake and company.

Looking smart and heroic, Novak (Adam Scott) and Sheriff Julie Forester (Elisabeth Shue) seem ready to identify and conquer Lake Victoria's piranha problem. On the Wild Wild Girls vessel Barracuda, Crystal (Riley Steele) and Danni (Kelly Brook) are flaunted and filmed by Derrick Jones to chants of "Motorboat!"

In what would come to be known as Joe Dante's signature style, the original Piranha was something of a horror comedy and Aja's remake follows suit.
It seems pretty impossible to tell a fish-devour-town tale today without a sense of humor. The remake is pretty spotty on this front, however. It doesn't really aim for many self-contained laughs, instead running with an atmosphere of self-parody familiar to post-modern horror.

The movie makes its setting as debaucherous as possible. Breasts are repeatedly bared for things like an oxygen-defying underwater ballet, a wet T-shirt contest, and nude parasailing. The young men are thick-headed frat boy types, the girls are completely without inhibition. The whole thing is, as televised spring break scenes often are, fueled by hormones and alcohol. Both celebrating and sending up the revelry (while viciously skewering Girls Gone Wild founder Joe Francis, who self-promotionally threatened a lawsuit), Piranha logically makes Lake Victoria a populous and susceptible target for chompy carnivores.

Unfortunately, there is a lack of fun to the collegiate carnival atmosphere. If that is intended to make the inevitable kills more satisfying, it doesn't. One expects to see a fair amount of blood in such a movie, but calling Piranha over-the-top in its gore is an understatement. Limbs are chewed down to the bone, torsos are split in half, guts are stretched, eyes poked out, a scalp gets scalped, and a severed penis becomes a meal. None of this is "scary", of course, but it is unsettlingly realistic, inviting cringes and averted gazes. Piranha seems determined to win over gore fans with its relentless graphic massacres.

As the 3D in the theatrical title implied, Piranha was very much designed to be a three-dimensional experience. Though it was shot in traditional 2D and then converted, the movie is full of moments meant to have an effect on viewers wearing special stereoscopic glasses. I am not a fan of cinema's current 3D craze and have yet to see a film that the technology added to in any significant way. I do, however, appreciate a good 3D theme park attraction and, like My Bloody Valentine 3D, that is kind of how Piranha plays. The effect may be lost in 2D, the only way that the film is presented on DVD, but exploiting the format with gimmickry makes more sense than wanting us to care about the simulated depth of different planes (especially on a movie not taking itself seriously).

In one of the shots obviously designed for 3D exhibition, we get a close look at one of the many piranhas feasting on the revelers of Lake Victoria. With cocaine on his upper lip, Derrick Jones (Jerry O'Connell) grabs the camera from Jake (Steven R. McQueen) to ensure the filming of a nude parasailer.

Piranha does have a few things to like. In addition to Dreyfuss' inspired cameo, Christopher Lloyd turns up as a crazed pet shop owner who's the go-to authority on prehistoric fish species. His fellow '80s icon Elisabeth Shue also handles her part nicely, though I'm doubtful that this can provide the career resurgence for her that Hamlet 2 didn't. With the exception of O'Connell's somewhat amusing jerk, most of the characters get too little screentime to make a strong impression.

Despite the fact that the vast majority of its exhibitions and admissions required 3-D ticket premiums, Piranha didn't pack much bite in its late-summer release, its $25 million domestic take barely offsetting its $24 M production budget. Foreign grosses doubled domestic ones and even before they came in, Dimension Films announced plans for a sequel. It has been titled Piranha 3Dd and fast-tracked for theatrical release on September 16, 2011, with Feast trilogy director John Gulager assuming the helm, Saw IV-Saw 3D sequel writers Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton writing the script, and no returning cast members yet confirmed.

If you'd like to catch that sequel in theaters, you've currently got eight months to see or rewatch its acclaimed predecessor beforehand. Through Weinstein/Dimension's soon expiring partnership with Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Piranha came to DVD, Blu-ray, and 3-D Blu-ray yesterday.

Piranha (2010) DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled in English
Release Date: January 11, 2011
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $28.95
Black Keepcase
Also available on Blu-ray Disc ($34.95 SRP) and Blu-ray 3D (with 2D version) ($39.95 SRP)


Piranha looks and sounds terrific on DVD. Colorful, sharp, and clean, the 2.40:1 widescreen picture is without issue. While CGI may be shoddy and the 3D just a memory, the visuals, from bloody bones to bouncing breasts, are otherwise presented with the utmost quality. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is also a treat and unusually engaging. Underwater bubbles engulf you early and often. Other effects are also dynamic and well-realized, while volume levels remain agreeably consistent and dialogue doesn't get drowned out. Active both visually and aurally, the presentation leaves nothing to be desired.

In the first of five behind-the-scenes featurettes, director Alexandre Aja explains how he wanted to recapture the fun of 1980s horror movies. Actress Kelly Brook takes a moment to discuss her "Spring Break" aboard the Wild Wild Girls boat Barracuda.


Piranha adds to Sony's unfortunate recent trend of suppressing bonus features from DVD to make Blu-rays seem more valuable. Only on Blu-ray will you find deleted scenes with optional commentary, deleted storyboard sequences, the movie's trailer and TV spots,
PlayStation 3 wallpaper, and five featurettes. However, despite having just two listings on the Special Features menu, the DVD is no slouch supplementally (and disc space is genuinely an issue here).

First comes an audio commentary by producer/director Alexandre Aja, producer Grιgory Levasseur, and producer Alix Taylor. Aja leads the discussion and covers a lot of ground enthusiastically. He talks about personnel, effects, homages, the MPAA, and general production experiences. That all makes for a good track with no lulls.

"Don't Scream, Just Swim: Behind-the-Scenes of Piranha 3D" actually holds five substantial topical making-of featurettes, running 91 minutes in total. Each piece is consistent in design, adding up to a more than satisfactory companion documentary with cast & crew sit-down interviews (most extensively from Aja), behind-the-scenes footage, and film clips.

"Aja, Cast & Story" (16:20) details the project's origins, development, and casting. "Lake Victoria" (15:33) deals with the challenges and delights of filming on and under the water of Lake Havasu City, Arizona, before briefly touching upon production design.

"Spring Break" (21:10) provides a thorough overview of the film's central setting, demonstrating the seamless mix of spring break and "spring fake" footage shot, addressing the story significance and production nature of the Wild Wild Girls production and wet T-shirt contest (for which Eli Roth greatly enjoys filming his cameo), and wrapping up with the massacre.

Make a movie about killer piranhas and you'll need something to turn the water red, as this crew member's hose does in "Blood & Gore." Computer-animated piranhas attack a swimmer on the DVD's main menu.

Naturally, "Blood & Gore" (15:22) elaborates on that last component more, focusing on the film's epic make-up and prosthetic effects and paying special attention to a few memorably gruesome images. The section concludes with "Special FX & Stunts" (21:23), where your interest may very well begin to wane during a discussion of safely executing sinking set pieces.

The DVD opens with a Sony Blu-ray promo and trailers for Resident Evil: Afterlife, Game of Death, Sniper: Reloaded, Ticking Clock, and The Virginity Hit. The menu's "Previews" listing doesn't take to the usual fuller supply of individually accessible ads; instead it just same plays the same loop that opens the disc.

Centering on the central carnage, the animated main menu contrasts reveling boat partiers with underwater mayhem.

Spring break on Arizona's Lake Victoria turns bloody, as piranhas attack the young partiers.


Nobody expected Piranha to become one of the best-reviewed films of last summer and having seen it, I am still a bit surprised it was. Embracing camp value and cinema's past only do so much for the film, which is otherwise every bit as forgettable as the killer monster movies it sends up.

Besides first-rate picture and sound, the DVD delivers making-of material as substantial as you'll find on the format these days. If you already know you like the movie (or strongly suspect you will), nothing should stand in the way of a purchase. But a rental is more advisable.

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Piranha Songs List (in order of use): Mitch Miller & The Gang - "Show Me the Way to Go Home", Shwayze - "Get U Home", Envy featuring Leviticus - "Shake Shake", LMFAO - "I Am Not a Whore", Flatheads - "Here She Comes", Far East Movement - "Fetish", Far Public Enemy vs. Benny Benassi - "Bring the Noise Remix", East Movement - "Girls on the Dance Floor", Dub Pistols - "She Moves", Adriana Kohutova and Denisa Slepkovska - "Lakme-Flower Duet", Ozomatli - "Nadas Por Free", Eli "Paperboy" Reed - "Come and Get It", Honorebel featuring Pitbull & Jump Smokers - "Now You See It", Hadouken! - "M.A.D.", Amanda Blank - "Make It Take It", Steve Aoki featuring [[[zuper blahq]]] - "I'm in the House"

Piranha 3D: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack:
Download from iTunes • Download Amazon MP3s • Buy CD from Amazon.com

Piranha 3D: Original Motion Picture Score by Michael Wandmacher:
Download from iTunes • Download Amazon MP3s • Buy CD from Amazon.com

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Reviewed January 12, 2011.

Text copyright 2010 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2010 Dimension Films, Atmosphere Entertainment MM, and 2011 Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
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