Ah, now I get it. This movie sucks. The people making it knew it sucked when they were making it but they didn’t tell everyone who was working on it. And they gave the actors who could see through it, like Judd Hirsh, Sharknado lobotomies. Last year, when I reviewed the first Sharknado, I mistook it for high comedy, a satire if you will. I thought Sharknado was a deft dig at the delicate balance of nature, a skillful skewering of the scare tactics of modern media overkill, a poignant take on the precarious nature of fate.
I was wrong. Sharknado was none of these things. It just sucked.
Sharknado 2: The Next One isn’t exactly more of the same, though it is, and more so, it is also less of the same. And less so. Sharknado 2: The Next One embraces its inner camp, but is self-conscious about it, because, you know, real men don’t embrace and sissies can’t work a chainsaw. It’s a surfer’s world and we’re only treading water. Though, swimming with a chainsaw is also a bitch, regardless of its apparent aerodynamic propensity. But I’m getting ahead of myself, which I wish I could say the same about Sharknado 2: The Next One. It wasn’t even in the same race.
Sharknado turned a great idea for a five minute Saturday Night Live skit, “Land Shark,” into a candy gram. Screenwriter Thunder Levin replaced the wit with humor’s lifeless clone and stretched it out over two hours. Two hours. You know it’s bad when you start counting the seconds in gleeful anticipation for the next commercial break.
Mike Cecchini did this to me as some kind of punishment, I’m sure. He loves to read me squirm. He also knows I harbor a deep abiding love of bad cinema. Films where you can see the monster’s strings, or nylon stockings or the zip up gorilla suit, which Sharknado has, in its way. There’s nothing that resembles the reality of sharks in Sharknado. Their weight or substance. I love movies that have no budgets, though Sharknado is a major cable network production. I love in these horrible movies because they make fun of themselves and usually replace their shoe-string funding (shoe strings cost money and they powered low-budget space ships and flying dinosaurs alike) with provocative storytelling, where the real horror exists as a parable and breakthrough directors and screenwriters replace costly effect details with explosions and wit.
Once again I was fooled. Oh, there were explosions and the opening sequence promised a real sendup. First we get the opening shot of the airplane fin looking like a shark fin making it feel like we were watching one of those Airplane movies. The first punchline lands when we hear that April, Tara Reid’s character, wrote a book. We didn’t see that coming. They hadn’t even established she’d read a book.
Sharknado then turns into surrealistic comedy. We get to see Ian Ziering, playing Fin, channel his inner Shatner when the sharks go gremlin, prying up the panels on the wings, I guess. Ziering plays out his Twilight Zone fantasia with every bit of acting he could muster or borrow from other actors. Turn down the sound and he looks like Marcel Marceau walking against the wind. People are being thrown willy nilly in their seats while a stewardess (Kelly Osbourne) in high heels calmly proffers used air bags and yet there goes the mime, Ian Ziering. Sharks yank pilots and co-pilot from the cockpit and blow open the hatch and we get teased that this is science fiction or at least Day of the Dolphin territory. The sharks recognize April even on the plane. By the time the first shark nabs a heady snack on the fly I was almost in hysterics.
It is surreal. No rules apply. Some people get sucked out of the plane while other actors didn’t see it in the notes. Tara Reid’s too-fat-for-Jason-Biggs ass can get sucked out the plane but the gun that the Air Marshal throws her lies dead on the floor. Tea trays scraped through the aisle but there are packets of sugar that didn’t even flip over.
Of course Fin saves the day, lands the plane, surfs the bird. Ever the hero, and he knows it, humbling as it is to be as awesome as he is, Fin takes his gravitas to the masses. There’s a storm coming to New York City the likes you’ve never seen. There will be sharks. I’ve seen them. He’s like Kevin McCarthy in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Admit it, you’d think twice before stopping if he was hitchhiking. When Andy Dick looks at you like you’re one oar short of a canoe, you’ve gone way past the deep end. Meanwhile, the weather channel is talking about a shark storm coming to New York. If only the cop turned around, he’d see that it was already on the news.
But Fin’s not only the handy dandy manatee with a chain saw. Having saved Los Angeles single-handedly once through the power of inspired coincidence, he is now an expert on all things Sharknado. Kari Wuhrer on the ferry sees the sharks circling the boat and thinks Fin would know the meaning to it all. He is weatherman and superman all rolled into one hunk of Fin. You should probably ask my brother. About a weather pattern? What the fuck is he going to know? He spent the last picture with a chainsaw.
Fin is in a rush to save the world, but has time to enjoy a high school reunion. Not only did his ex, Skye (Vivica A. Fox), who had no idea he was coming, I mean, even Fin didn’t know he was going until they fished a ticket out of April’s pocket, expect him. She also collected the tickets for his family, knew their seat numbers and how many hot dogs they ate. I don’t know, stalk much?
I didn’t start rooting for the sharks until the 43 minute mark when Brian (Judah Friedlander), the guy at the Mets game, picked up the oversized novelty bat and screamed “batter up.” Batter him up and serve him quick with fries was all I thought. When the sharks from the sky teamed up with the alligators in the sewers I thought for sure our side would win. It brought a tear to my eye.
Sharks aren’t known as picky eaters, but these sharks are so finicky they only have their feeding frenzies in iconic landmarks. Look at the scene where the sharks are filling Citi Field. They are only pouring into the stadium. Not a single shark lands in the parking lot. When have you ever seen a storm hitting with that precision? But precision is what Sharknado is all about.
Precision is of course a relative thing. Making bombs out of whatever the fuck Fin was throwing together, tying them off in individual packages before launching, but always on time for the next opening. Cutting sharks exactly in half, splitting them evenly in two while performing a backflip, impaling a shark on the exact needle at the top of the lightning rod at the pinnacle of the Empire State Building are all very precise. Reality, not so much. Especially whatever it is that Al Roker is spraying. I wanted to see his head and Kelly Ripa’s get chomped every time I heard their voices. I found myself watching every character, every single character, waiting and hoping and wishing and praying like Dusty Springfield for the next shark to drop. When the weather lady was saying that sharks were falling at two inches an hour, I wanted a shark to drop on her head. Then Fin sets the twister on fire and it’s raining fish cakes.
They sell Napalm at New York grocery stores? You can get anything you want in Times Square? Why is New York stuck in some kind of idealized 1978 neverland?
Precision and cameos. That’s what made Sharknado. All the weather people and morning news program people played themselves. Matt Lauer played with himself. Jared, the walking hardened artery who lived on nothing but Subway sandwiches for five years, waited for a subway. Even the commercials had special cameos like Rob Lowe riding sharks. It was a party at Syfy, too bad we weren’t invited.
I had basement garage level expectations and was disappointed. Not because I thought they’d learn from the first one, which they did. This was an improvement that still had the power to diminish the original, which was already a miasmal fog. I like bad horror. I love it when it knows it’s bad and when it doesn’t know it’s bad. But when it fails at being bad enough that’s pretty bad. I know it was supposed to be fun and poking fun at itself, but really, it was lame. It was a dead shark. A dead corny shark. A cataclysmic cliche.
So, so unbelievable. Tara Reid’s character writing a book?
Now, if it ended with Tara Reid biting off Ian Ziering’s head after he offered her the slighly used ring, it would have been classic TV. Can’t wait for Sharknado 3.