In Piranha 3D, Alexandre Aja classed up a trashy scenario—prehistoric piranhas meet spring-break fucktards—with winking humor and self-conscious aesthetic affectation. That’s the mark of an artist, if not necessarily a genius. But director John Gulager is neither. He brings only straight-to-video conviction to Piranha 3DD, which follows the bloody fallout of a clueless Gary Busey massaging a few piranha eggs out of a flatulent dead cow and straight toward a nearby water park. It’s an amazing only-on-paper scenario realized without clarity, intensity, or wit—though the film does deliver on the promise of its title with ridiculous amounts of double-D’s.
Lake Victoria is now a wasteland. Not so nearby, Maddy (Danielle Panabaker), a marine biologist, is home for the summer, butting heads with her stepdad (David Koechner) over how to operate Big Wet Water Park and caught between a douchey hottie, Kyle (Chris Zylka), and a dweeby, good-hearted nottie, Henry (Matt Bush), whose obviously ripped bod is kept conspicuously, almost hilariously, under wraps. (Henry can’t swim, of course, and when he finally does take a plunge, it’s as much a life-saving mission as it is a point-proving wet t-shirt contest.) After a close call with seemingly bionic piranhas, Maddy and her two would-be paramours pay the obligatory visit to Christopher Lloyd’s Mr. Goodman, who can’t ring the alarm (his last book, about piranhas learning to walk, has discredited his reputation), but happily sets up the premise for a third film.
Paul Scheer rolls Ving Rhames onto the scene at one point so his legless cop can lamely work out his problems with water—and to bust out the toy Rose McGowan showed off to better effect in Planet Terror. Worse, David Hasselhoff, playing himself, can’t even bother to summon anything resembling compassion for the approximately two dozen terrible extras who die in the film. Say what you will about Piranha 3D, but as much as it made a spectacle of death, the level of detail and creativity that went into conveying the carnage of piranhas completely laying waste to the human body felt almost humane in its conviction, an awesomely gross articulation of our most implausible fears of death. Piranha 3DD‘s bad CGI conveys nothing but flippancy, as well as the drawbacks of working with a flimsy production budget.
One sex scene that ends with the worst happy ending in the world may be a blatant attempt to top Jerry O’Connell’s castration-by-piranha from the first film, but the panic that propels the girl—oblivious to the fact that she has a carnivorous fishy swimming around inside her—to want to lose her virginity is almost poignant. Mostly, though, Piranha 3DD spiritlessly moves from scene to scene, set piece to set piece, most too incoherent and half-realized, among them the least credible decapitation the movies have ever seen, to qualify as actual scenes or set pieces, all sutured together with redundant underwater B roll. Worst of all is how the film replaces the MTV beach house with Wet ‘n Wild, promises an absolute bloodbath, only to then stay in the kiddie pool. Both literally and figuratively, Piranha 3DD lacks guts.