Good day, I’m Julian André, and welcome to Craptastic Cinema.
I remember the year: 1987. That’s when I first whiffed the noxious odor. And it permeated the entire theatre. It smelt like week-old dead crabs. What was that stench, you ask? It was Jaws: The Revenge. Phew!
This is the fourth installment of the franchise. It should be noted that Universal sent out a press release lauding it as the “third film of the remarkable Jaws trilogy.” How on Earth could they forget about the incomparable Jaws 3-D? Well past watered-down, the franchise is now a water-logged mass of putrescence. A frightful flick. Not frightening, mind you. No, I wouldn’t use that word; unless I wrote something snarky like “it is frightening to think that someone actually green-lighted this.” In fact, there is absolutely nothing scary in this movie. No suspense. Not a cheap gotcha-moment. Nobody is terrorized. Jabberjaw had more people on the run than this shark. I recently re-watched it to make sure it was as craptacular as I thought originally. I was not let down. Hold my hand and let’s take the plunge…
It is Christmastime in Amity. Sean Brody is now police deputy of Amity and can best be described as a whiny bitch. He’s a smart-ass to his mother, the recently widowed Ellen (Lorraine Gary). He complains. He’s basically unlikeable. So when he reluctantly goes to repair a damaged buoy and gets his arm ripped off by a shark (who, in POV, is lying in wait for Sean!) we’re not exactly saddened. He kinda got what he deserved. Sean then stumbles to the ship’s rail where the shark leaps out and snatches him. It is during this scene that we discover why the movie is set during Christmas. The curious timing is merely a device to juxtapose a choir joyfully singing carols with a dastardly shark attack. Here, the Baptism scene of The Godfather was ripped off…just like Sean’s arm. Full marks! We are well on our way to Crapperville!
Enter other son, Michael. Not an engineer, but a marine biologist. OK, I guess we really are forgetting about Jaws 3-D. He comes up for the funeral to console Mom. She tells him “it came for him…waited all this time.” Who came for him? The shark that was blown up by her late husband, Martin? A relative? And why? It’s never explained. The director wants you to stop asking questions! And thinking. No time to grieve though—and, believe me, they don’t. The story must lurch its way forward.
Ellen—who is deathly afraid of water, mind you—is convinced by Michael (with wife Carla and annoying daughter Thea in tow) to fly en masse to…the Bahamas! Turns out this is where Michael has been working, tracking sea snails with fellow PhD biologist co-worker Jake (Mario Van Peebles), whose Caribbean patois comes & goes like the tide.
Enter Hoagie. Not the Philadelphia sandwich—though they’re both hammy. Hoagie (Sir Michael Caine) is the pilot who flies them into the Bahamas and is always conveniently nearby when situations arise. Hoagie—is it lunchtime yet?—is attracted to Ellen. Why, I haven’t the foggiest. She’s totally bipolar, one moment maniacally upbeat, the next crying and fretting. And when I say “crying” I do not mean seeing her physically weep; I mean her having a pained expression akin to not being able to pass a hard stool.
We pause for a bit of idiotic conversation from one of their dates:
Hoagie: I have an irresistible urge to kiss you, Ellen Brody.
Did I mention that Ellen has some sort of strange shark ESP? Yes, she does. Really. But it gets better. Apparently this ESP/shark alarm happened when Sean got munched back in Amity and has gone off again in the Bahamas because—wait for it—the shark has followed Ellen there! Yes!!! The craptometer just went to eleven!
Michael and Jake are well aware a malevolent man-eating shark is terrorizing their island but decide its best to keep that info to themselves. Brain hurting yet? Just wait. Jake persuades Michael to forget about the sea snails for a while and track the shark instead. How? The two PhDs put their heads together and formulate this scientific plan: Tie a rope around Jake’s waist, lean him over a pier, and hope that the shark gets close enough for him to stab it with a heart monitoring device…but not so close that the shark eats him. No, I’m not kidding. And, yes, the plan works. Honestly, how can you not love this?
The next day they go out on their boat to try to follow the shark. Michael breaks out the SCUBA gear and is promptly chased around by the great white. The shark wants revenge…and this time it’s personal! But Michael manages to barely get away, and they return to shore.
Meanwhile, Ellen’s shark alarm rings again while at a beach reception for Carla’s—remember her? me neither—art installation. Thea has gone on a banana boat ride in the ocean and the shark chows down on her friend’s mom. (For the record, this is just the second killing in the movie so far and we’re nearly at the end.) There’s that constipated look again…Ellen has had it! She’s now on mission. She will go toe-to-toe with the shark for scaring her poor granddaughter. Ellen wants revenge…and this time it’s personal!
With furrowed brow, Ellen is next seen steering Michael’s boat on the open ocean.
Time out. Where’d she know where the boat was moored? Where is she going? What does she hope to do? Can she even drive a boat like this? Rest assured all will be answered. Or not.
Michael and Jake get wind of Mom’s impromptu excursion, track down Hoagie—I’ll have mine with mayo, thanks—and soon are in his plane (not sea plane) looking the ocean blue for her. What luck: they spot her! Hoagie lands the plane rightnext to the boat and they all clamber aboard. I know, I know—you have that quizzical look in your eyes and a sharp pain in your left temple, but no time to waste, there’s a shark on the loose!
Once on board, Jake turns into MacGyver and rigs up a contraption that can confuse the shark—I’ll call it the “bewilderbeast.” The bewilderbeast has two parts. One is a metallic box that has a strobe flash when switched on. The other is the transmitter that will do the shocking. Remember the PhDs’ previous plan? This one’s better still. Jake will shimmy his way out onto the bowsprit (the pointy thing at the front of a boat) and ram the bewilderbeast down the shark’s gullet when it gets close enough…but not so close that the shark eats him. The plan works! Except for the part where Jake is eaten:
Michael wants revenge…and this time it’s personal! Michael steers his way towards a man-shark showdown, furiously clicking the bewilderbeast on and off. Hoagie—yum!—well…he just sits there. Ellen has a sepia-toned flashback of her husband shooting the original great white. There’s something very fishy about that…and it’s not the shark I smell. Then it dawns: she was not there when Martin killed Bruce the shark. How could she have a flashback to an incident where she wasn’t present? Oh, well. No time for pondering such inconsistencies because here comes the big scene!
The shark roars (literally) on a collision course with the boat, getting shocked the whole time, until it impales itself on the bowsprit, explodes, the boat sinks, and the crew is happily reunited with Jake, cracking jokes as they make for shore…the end.
Let’s take this one step at a time.
- I’m no ichthyologist, but I’m fairly certain sharks don’t roar.
- If bewildering the beast was such a success how could the shark make a bee-line straight into the boat?
- The shark gets impaled on the bowsprit. A bowsprit that is about ten feet above the water. So the shark hurled itself out of the water, thrusting it’s “chest” out so it could be killed. Hmm.
- The shark explodes. I’ll write that again. The shark explodes.
- The boat sinks…because? No reason, really. Just a good way to get all the characters into the water together.
- Jake is alive. So remember when Jake plunged the bewilderbeast into the shark and for his efforts was nearly halved, fully in the maw of the great white as it dragged him under? Well forget that. He’s ok. Just a flesh wound.
Wretched plot. Abysmal acting. Inscrutable editing and direction. It was even awarded “Worst Special Visual Effects” at the 1987 Golden Raspberry Awards. This movie’s got it all! No wonder Roger Ebert remarked that Jaws: The Revenge “is not simply a bad movie, but also a stupid and incompetent one.” I whole-heartedly agree. But let’s not end this review on such a sour note. I’ll let Sir Michael have the final word:
“I have never seen it, but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific.”
Note: A good case could be made this film is genuine crap. Admittedly, moments of actual hilarity are few, especially compared to the ones that generate bemused disbelief. However, the cumulous effect of watching scene after scene of head-slapping incompetence both in front of the camera and behind does become perversely funny. Throughout its 90 minute running time one cannot help but laugh out loud at how it all—and I mean ALL— goes so spectacularly wrong. For that reason it is, indeed, craptastic!
I’m Julian André, humble scrivener, blogging exclusively for MovieFanFare. Until next time, I bid you a fond adieu!