When I was a kid I remember paying $5 at the geek show part of a carnival to see a giant great white shark. We were taken into a long trailer and were able to walk around it, suspended in some kind of clear block. It was sad, horrifying, and shocking that someone would display an animal this way. After watching Jaws 3-D for our review of Halloween films, I had some of the same feelings return.
You’re not supposed to cheer for the monster in a monster movie like Jaws 3-D. And yet I found myself hoping the shark would consume all this early 1980s fashion and bad moviemaking. Every actor earns his or her sea legs in a different way, and here was Dennis Quaid (Enemy Mine, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra), Bess Armstrong (House of Lies), Lea Thompson (Back to the Future), and Louis Gossett, Jr. (An Officer and a Gentleman) before they all would make names for themselves in much bigger and better films. There’s even the son of All in the Family’s Jean Stapleton, John Putch, before he would have small roles in several series, including playing Mordock the Benzite in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Putch plays Sean Brody, brother to Quaid’s Mike Brody, and they are the sons of Chief Brody from the original Jaws. The Brodys find themselves again pursued by a giant shark, the latest some 35 feet long.
Where Friday the 13th III in 3D is an example of over-the-top 3D effects that–absurd or not–you can still appreciate at least for its humor, Jaws 3-D reflects all that is bad about 3D. The fundamental requirement of any movie, with or without special effects, is a good story. This story doesn’t know what it wants to be. At times it could be a poignant look at compassionate marine biologists caring about their animals and their work, with Armstrong and Quaid going about their jobs in a nice summer setting. In a different genre years later this would be the backdrop for a movie like Summer Rental. But a movie called Jaws requires chilling suspense. Jaws 3-D doesn’t earn the title.
Were it merely a vehicle for three-dimensional whiz-bang action, this might have resulted in something like Friday the 13th III. But the directorial choices are bad. The images shown in 3D are superfluous to the plot. The film sulks along and the only action comes about after an hour of the film as passed by. As to story the movie doesn’t make sense even on paper. A shark accused of killing people is finally caught, put on display at an aquarium, and then its mother sneaks into the park and torments the staff and guests until it breaks through the aquarium walls to get revenge on the facility manager. Remember last year’s Syfy B-movie hit Sharknado? Jaws 3-D is the original Sharknado, but without the necessary tongue-in-cheek humor.