Having just made my videocast for Jaws 4, I got into that Jaws mood and thought that I ought to fix the gaping hole in my site’s purview and get Jaws 3 in there right quick. I had seen it a few times before, but unfortunately never in the theater, where it was in 3-D. Which, obviously, now leaves us with a bunch of really idiotic effects that were once in 3-D, but now just look incredibly dumb.
So we open in these crannies of coral obviously too small for our giant shark to fit into. The sharks-eye POV comes up to this grouper, which remains quite calm about the fact that there’s a giant great white shark in its face. We hear a chomping sound, then see the fish head floating in the foreground, one of those effects that might have been effective in 3-D. Then we go through the credits, where we discover that this movie was “suggested by” the novel Jaws. I’ll tell you what—that novel suggests no such thing. We also discover that the screenplay is by Carl Gottleib, who wrote the original, and Richard Mathieson, famed writer of horror/fantasy fiction such as I Am Legend. And this is the screen debut of Lea Thompson!
Okay, so the Sea World Water Skiers, which are apparently akin to the Solid Gold Dancers, are out in the ocean practicing their human pyramids. We see the shark macking on them, after they fall into the water, distracted by the sweaty manhood of Olberman [below]. They swim into this “lagoon” and this water gate closes behind them. Only we know that the shark, attracted by the human meat-triangle they represent, swims in after them, messing up the gate in the process. We are at this new Sea World park, run by Lou Gossett at Bouchard, and employing Mike Brody—son of Chief Brody from the first two—played by Dennis Quaid, and Bess Armstrong [have any recollection of her? No?] as his girlfriend and pal to dolphins Kathy.
So this Sea World is going to open the next day, and features this huge network of underwater plastic tunnels in the lagoon. Mustachioed muscle hunk Olberman, who continues to win my affection with his penchant for wearing Speedos, is, sadly for me, the first to go. He goes under to padlock the gate [and, WHY would they need to padlock and chain this underwater gate? Are fish going to pick the lock otherwise?], but unfortunately meets up with our shark. We see one of his arms floating around in 3-D vision.
Meanwhile, Mike’s little brother Sean, also featured in the previous movies, comes to visit. He’s become some sort of cowboy. They go to a bar where Sean meets Lea [as Kelly], playing this odd little bar game in which they try to push each other off balance. Am I woefully naïve, or is this is a really stupid game? Did people really play this? Anyway, this kicks off Sean’s vacation romance with Kelly. Meanwhile, two guys who, near as I can tell, are trying to sabotage the park, float into the lagoon. I guess they’re part of a radical aquatic-life liberation front? Although I don’t think most animal liberation saboteurs are goofy douchebags in real life. But maybe, what do I know. Anyway, they’re here just to give us a few more victims up front, which they efficiently accomplish.
The next day Olberman’s trashy girlfriend, annoyed that he’s missing, tells Mike to convey to him that “he can take a flying leap in a rolling donut on a gravel driveway.” Umm, OKAY. What does that mean? And who is responsible for that one, Mr. Gottleib or Mr. Matheison? Someone’s got to pay.
Then it’s time to show off Sea World’s super-advanced mini-sub that they use to explore the lagoon. Mike and Kathy go under, accompanied by their friendly dolphins, and get out to explore the sunken galleon exhibit. They get out and explore the fake wreck when—why is the dolphin shaking his head and making “Uh-uh!” noises? You know, we really need to heed the word of our flippered friends. I guess he was trying to warn them about the unarticulated shark head that is going to ram the boat like a pile driver, then back straight out. Viewers are advised NOT to consult their scientific knowledge about how sharks cannot swim backwards in order to enjoy many key sequences of this film. This is one of the funnier effects, as they seriously ram this concrete-rigid shark head at this boat, then pull it straight out. Then Mike and Kathy ride the dolphins to safety! This is one of those movies from the time where it was “common knowledge” that dolphins were super-smart and, due to their advanced wisdom, wanted nothing more than the advancement and betterment of humankind. “You pollute our oceans—we save you from sharks!” seems to be the quid pro quo arrangement. On the way back, the shark attacks—Kathy’s TANK! Sharks just REALLY hate compressed air. Anyway, they make it out to meet our human villain, Philip FitzRoyce. He is this hyper-arrogant British undersea photographer whose sole purpose is to sling British-accented condescension at our heroes and come up with bad plans. He is accompanied by his assistant, Jack, who has a hot stache and who refers to Philip as “Governor” throughout. We’ll have reason to question the true nature of their relationship at a later time. They want to kill the shark in order to generate big publicity, but Kathy argues that they should capture it for even bigger publicity, as no one has a great white in captivity. So they go forward with that plan.
So they do—maybe this is where Kathy’s tank gets attacked, I forget—and keep it in a small tank, although it soon dies because evil Bouchard wanted to get it out and before the public before it’s ready. WHEN will man learn to temper his greed so that our aquatic friends can thrive? Just had to ask. Regardless, they’re pretty sure the shark problem is wrapped up.
Ah, man’s hubris! Bouchard orders a certain pump turned off, and we soon discover that what they caught was the BABY shark, and mama shark has—wait for it—apparently been sucked against this pump intake grate this entire time! Naturally she’s a little hungry, so she stops by the underwater café for a look at the meaty goodness dining inside. This is where all our central characters get a good look at the beast, which they say is 35 feet long [the one in the first was 25 feet, which, we were told, was outrageously huge]. Mike runs around like a madman trying to call in the Sea World skiers, mid-pyramid. They get menaced, but tragically, none of them dies. Which is a huge bummer, but I suspect that part of licensing the Sea World name included an agreement that no one would die as part of their attractions.
Meanwhile, Sean and Kelly are in the bumper boats, where Kelly receives a non-lethal scratching from the shark, who seems to just want to deliver a rude nudge. But let’s talk about Sean. This guy has got to be a psychological shambles by now, as he saw Mike nearly die in the first one, was rendered catatonic with fear for long periods of the second one, and now has once more to watch his loved ones come close to being ripped apart by those pesky sharks. He’s a good candidate for some kind of disability compensation and HOW he is not some sort of addict by now is anyone’s guess. But he won’t have to suffer too much longer, as he is snarfed up right off the bat in Jaws 4.
So now the shark menaces the good patrons of Sea World, but sadly no one gets it, meaning you could be forgiven for asking “HI?! Is anyone going to DIE in this useless movie?” The good public is wandering through the giant underwater tunnel when the shark sees them and wants some of that, so he [or, I guess it’s a she] smashes repeatedly with it’s pile-driver nose into the plastic tube, resulting in everyone’s favorite: mass panic at an amusement park. I had to go frame-by-frame to catch what it said on this guy’s T shirt: “Let a gargoyle sit on your face.” God, how I miss vaguely disreputable T shirts like that. Takes me right back to my days hanging out at the Westland mall, seeing some random hunk in a “Mustache Rides 5 Cents” T shirt and wishing the outcome would be pleasant were I do approach him with a nickel. Anyway, unfortunately the water stops at waist-level, precluding the fun we might have had viewing a big plastic tunnel full ‘o corpses.
SPOILERS > > >
Anyway, our heroes have a plan. It seems that Phil and Jack are going to dive into some big tube and lure the shark in, then lock it! By now we’ve noticed that Mike is chain-smoking and Kathy looks and acts like Frances McDormand [was mocking] in Burn After Reading. There’s a great example of shoehorned-in exposition as we see a guy tying a rope and hear a technician’s voice offscreen say “They’re testing the life line to see if it’s secure.” So Philip shakes his little tushy in the shark’s direction, and she follows him into the pipe. Jack is there to record it all for Philip’s lasting posterity. This is when it becomes really, REALLY apparent that this shark is SLOW. Like, you know, those things need to keep moving in order to breathe. As it’s moseying in you’ll have time to go get coffee and call your Aunt, but also to note that this shark has a bizarre horizontal, disc-like bulge just before its tail [see below], unlike any shark in recorded history, and surely there just to hide the mechanism that swings its tail back and forth. Earlier we’ve had a shot of it swimming low to the sea floor, in which we can clearly see the track it’s moving along just beneath. Anyway, a little sequence happens around 122:10, and if you have the disc you should watch it and see if YOU can tell what happened. The shark noses up to Phil, there’s a lot of bubbles, and all of a sudden Philip’s entire body is inside the Shark’s mouth, fully intact. I guess this shark can just suck things in? So Philip is safely behind the teeth, although he risks them should he try to get out, and all of a sudden we see a bunch of blood. What happened? He was gummed to death? He was constricted in the tightening esophagus of doom? I guess we’ll never know.
Anyway, soon big tough guy Jack is reduced to a distraught, weeping pooky bunny at the news of Philip’s death, leading us to ask some rather pointed questions about the true nature of their relationship. If so, I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s a sad situation when, with all the additional obstacles same-sex couples face, great white sharks need to be added to that list. The shark again defies scientific reality to back out of the tube [I guess that’s what the flat innovation near the tail allows?], and is once more on the hunt. It however, once more moves with a slowness snails envy, leading me to speculate on which is more menacing: this shark or my big toe.
So Mike and Kathy have to go in to—do something, never was quite sure what—whereupon they are menaced by the leisurely-paced jaws of death. But don’t count out those friendly dolphins, and if you suspected we couldn’t escape this movie without shots of the dolphins poking the shark in its tender gills, well, why do you always have to be right? I thought it would have been a nice touch if at least one of the friendly dolphins was cleanly bitten in half, but that does not occur. Mike and Kathy make it back to the airlock and then—the shark sticks its TOOTH in the door? Okay…
So now they’re in the control lab with the big picture window, and all of a sudden, with no build-up or whatever, they see this giant, concrete-stiff shark moving straight toward them. Only they choose to add to the slowness of the shark by showing the scene in slow motion, including a round of slo-mo reaction shots, before it finally shatters the glass of the window. It’s a painfully sad effect, not least because the shark is a wholly different color than the surrounding water [see above], and the obvious superimposition of any ol’ glass window. So the room, full of sensitive electronic equipment, fills up with water, although no one gets electrocuted, and the shark snarfs up one nameless technician.
So now Mike and Kathy are stuck with a big shark’s head in their window, but luckily it’s so slow and unarticulated they can just swim around it at will. They then notice that Philip is still stuck right there in the shark’s gullet, his outstretched arm helpfully holding a grenade out toward them. This brings up two questions: one, so when the shark ate the nameless technician a second ago, a guess that guy’s body went AROUND Philip’s on his way into the sharks stomach? Second, between the evidence we have here, and in Jaws and Jaws 4, we have to ask: Don’t sharks ever swallow? They just swim around with any old thing stuck right in their mouths? This of course had me amusing myself with admonishments such as “Don’t stalk with your mouth full!” and “Um, I think you’ve got something stuck in your teeth.” Anyway, the easy solution has presented itself, as all Mike and Kathy need to do is play a high-stakes game of Operation and pull the pin on the grenade in Phil’s hand. They find this conveniently bent bar just floating around, reach in, pull the pin, and then duck behind some equipment. You see, a massive underwater explosion really presents only the merest inconvenience if you simply duck behind some nearby equipment. People take explosions FAR too seriously.
So there’s a giant explosion of blood which blows shark guts out toward the camera [it can be amusing to frame-by-frame here and look at some of these guts, most of which look like car parts, in detail], finally shooting out two jaws [get it—JAWS???] that come to a stop directly before the camera. Then Mike and Kathy swim out, and see that their dolphin friends are still alive, and we celebrate! The end.
< < < SPOILERS END
It didn’t HAVE to be so awful. The whole Sea World angle is kind of cool and successfully introduces a whole new location and angle to the proceedings, and the scene of the shark causing mass panic at the park is fairly awesome—although it would have been much better had she actually claimed some lives. But the whole things shoots off the rails—and THEN picks up speed—until the incredibly dumb and awful ending brings the whole thing way down. Apart from the ending, this is no way as bad as Jaws 4, but it CLEARLY paved the way. There was NO tradition of quality to uphold after this.
Someone on the IMDb pointed out the many elements here that have eerie parallels in the superior shark movie Deep Blue Sea, such as the seemingly-drugged shark in a pool that suddenly springs to life, and obviously the shark smashing the big picture window. Perhaps someone concepting that film watched this and said “These are cool ideas, and if you didn’t do them in a way that was SO INCREDIBLY MORONIC, they would kind of work.” And they did.
Ultimately, a guilty pleasure, and one I would definitely see in 3-D were it ever shown that way again. But really, once you’re done here, it’s just a few inches to the bottom.
Sure, you can’t go wrong with shark attacks, and if it’s mocking laughter you want, that is certainly what you’ll get.