The SyFy channel is not new to satire, but Sharknado is an underplayed comic maybe not masterpiece, but for what they usually put out, not too shabby. I didn’t so much laugh outright as I snorted and giggled, but it had moments of pure comic joy. And not just the obvious slapstick crowd-pleasers, the dialogue plumbs the depths of fear and sorrow and comes back with acerbic takes on society, the environment and suburban living. Sharknado isn’t really plumbing new ground, SciFi let Roger Corman produce Dinocroc with Charles Napier and Joanna Pacuła in 2004. Dinocrock spawned Supergator and Dinocroc vs. Supergator. It was a natural evolution that also brought life to Mansquito and Piranhaconda, which really rolls off your tongue if you say it right. None are as funny as this.
Those earlier SyFy and SciFi Channel movies were hybrid monsters that go back to stories by Robert Louis Stevenson. Dinocrock is half dinosaur, half crocodile, for instance. Mansquito earned the right to ask “Are we not men?” The sharks and the tornado in Sharknado are a team rather than a genetic splice, although Sharkicane would have been a more accurate title. Team Sharknado start on the ocean. They foil some kind of illicit deal being made on International Waters by jumping jaws first onto the deck and taking chunks out of people who were set just to be eaten. To be honest, most of the actors in this are playing people you don’t mind seeing as a side dish. My daughter commented that ever disaster movie has a nasty woman and her asshole boyfriend that you don’t mind seeing killed. This movie was all that. I was rooting for the sharks by ten minutes into it. When they attack the bar I laughed. I was reminded of The Attack of The Killer Tomatoes. When the sharks invaded Tara Reid’s inland house, I couldn’t get Saturday Night Live’s “Land Shark” out of my head. The sharks have funnier lines than the people too. “We need a bigger chopper,” what the fuck is that?
I have been waiting for Tara Reid to return to her comic roots. Reid played in some of the most outrageous modern comedy classics. After only a few scenes, Reid gets embedded in our minds throughout the slyly satiric noir classic The Big Lebowski in 1998. Reid easily slid from pointed social commentary in Dr. T and the Women or Urban Legend in 1998 to the iconic comedies American Pie, American Pie 2 and American Reunion. Her hilarious shower scene in Josie and the Pussycats should be a meme. She also did go-to comedy film brand National Lampoon’s Van Wilder. Tara Reid was the guest when my friend scored tickets for us at The Daily Show and she sparred gigglingly through her interview all night. She may have done her best comic work in the medical drama that kept running from night to night to channel to channel, Scrubs. Very funny show. Dated now, but funny.
John Heard is basically playing what Walter Matthau did in Earthquake, a drunk guy in a bar wearing a Hawaiian shirt. Except Heard, or George, probably the only name that registered while I was watching, has a barstool fetish and Walter Matthau knew enough to use some long Russian variation on his name when he did his cameo. And he kept it as a cameo, a recurring cameo, but a cameo. Heard sounds like he’s on too much allergy medicine or cough syrup and not the good kind with codeine. I kinda wanted Ian Ziering’s character to be shark bait before the sharks even made it to his surfboard. He seemed perpetually annoyed and perpetually annoying. Nobody liked him inland. His wife, his kids, his car all hated him. (“You have a son too?”) He’s kinda like Adam Sandler in that movie where he dumps his kid when he’s 18 and shows up again when he needs money. Only funny. Nova, Cassie Scerbo, seemed to be inexplicably attracted to the former 90210 actor as he did his best to turn the whole shebang into Zombieland. His Vegemite sidekick got nibbled throughout, but didn’t die soon enough.
Our heroes, the sharks, aren’t just hungry, they are mischievous. They leave an annoying flyer under Ziering’s windshield wiper. They tag all L.A., vandalize landmarks like the Hollywood Sign and the Roosevelt Hotel and some billboard that’s probably iconic. The sharks climb ropes. They can fly, or at least leap, maybe not tall buildings, but then again, yes they do. They ride a waterspout and swallow Nova in one bite after she falls out of a helicopter. And they do this at about 1,000 feet. These are the flying Wallendas of the sea. Lame jokes from their human counterparts can’t keep up with this. The sharks are upstaged at one point by a marauding ferris wheel which should get a supporting acting nod.
Oh, SPOILER ALERT: When it turned out that Tara Reid was a shark all along, I wasn’t at all surprised. She started giving off the hammerhead vibe when she told Ziering that a busload of kids trapped in the sharketeria was empty. Whatever happened to those kids, anyway? They go through the trouble of bungee jumping them up through the sharks and then, what? They left them on the street? Nobody really seemed that upset when people were munched on left and right. Except the munchees. They spit out every reference to any disaster movie from the biblical plagues in The Ten Commandments to Mant!, half man, half ant, all terror, in Atomovision, which this movie most resembles. I particularly like the twist on the autopsy scene in Jaws, as Ziering chainsaws his way out of the belly of the beast like some kind of Jonah and, more miraculously, pulls the aforementioned swallowed Nova with him. What are the odds that he could find the one shark in a rainstorm of sharks that swallowed a girl, thousands of feet away, hundreds of feet in the air. Very funny.
Sharkpedo or Sharknado, whatever the fuck it’s called, is a one-joke comedy. It brings out all the big guns, it makes all the references, but it doesn’t really shock. The only time I was surprised was when the shark that ate the Band-Aid kids in the Neosporin commercial. You know who’s going to die before they get jumped and chomped. Especially the early scenes, the first shark attack on the boat and the attack on the lady surfer played by Sumiko Braun who calls Ziering “grandpa,” the school bus driver died just as I was yelling “fucking die already.” Every popup telegraphed that it was coming. And it was spoiled by that telegram I took so long ago. Or was it a candy gram? Or was it a landsharknado?
Den of Geek Rating: 1.5 Out of 5 Stars