Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! review

Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! is a feeding frenzy that's filled with itself.

Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! is probably the best of the three and if that sounds like an endorsement, read on.

They knew this was coming. Oh Hell No, is right. I was first assigned Sharknado because someone thought it was ironic. That was alright the first time around, but, to paraphrase Jay Mohr, irony blows. It becomes a kind of purgatory when the same lame gag is trotted out for a third time, only louder. Much, much louder. Like a drunk at a party trying to tell a joke he can’t remember but is making up for it with volume. Or a Saturday Night Live skit that goes on too long. Pick any, or let’s just say “Land Shark.” That was one of SNL’s tightest and briefest skits. Even when you count how many times the land shark actually came back. SNL knew to keep it short. Sharknado isn’t even a good running gag.

The Land Shark was the cleverest of sharks. Much smarter than the Great White, which stuck to the beaches, the Land Shark could strike at any place, any time. Any guest, from Richard Dreyfus to Candace Bergen to Tina Fey. The Land Shark could disguise its voice. The Land Shark preyed on “young, single women.” 

I root for the sharks in this. I’ve gone on record countless times writing that King Kong and the creature that Dr. Frankenstein creates are among the most empathetic of creature, misunderstood and maligned. I say it now with the sharks. If we learned nothing from Jaws, and we didn’t, it’s that sharks are eating machines. All they do is eat, poop and make little sharks. Woody Allen taught us that when sharks stop moving, they die.

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So here they are, flying free for the first time since before the dinosaurs that they’re able to do drive-through dining and we got David Hasselhoff covering up his speedos in an astronaut suit making rocket fuel teriyaki out of the sharks. Hasselhoff is probably best known for his turn in the SpongeBob movie, where he swam SpongeBob back to sea and safety. To see him turn his back on his finned friends in his ionic pentameter flying machine is heartrending. But they let Anne Coulter live, the sharks bit off Robert Klein’s head but Anne Coulter still draws breath.

Forget the acting, because really, there is none. There are actors saying lines and they’re doing it enthusiastically and they have dayglow characters. But this is a mugfest and people love it for being a mugfest. It’s the little rascals in CGI color only not as funny. These are kids playing soldier in an empty lot that their daddy owns. Nepotism doesn’t mean someone believes in the sea god Neptune. Thunder and the gang inherited the detritus of the Spelling dynasty and declared them superheroically kewl.

I never watched Love Boat, I saw an episode or two, but Sharknado has a certain bullshit superficial sheen to it that drifted over to 90210 and washed up here. I’d like to enjoy seeing Ian Zering eaten by the land sharks, but that candy gram never comes. He’s too busy trying to one-up his chainsaw climax of last year in every single scene. Even the subtle ones, he’s got one eye out for a weapon.

I didn’t know Tara Reid wasn’t playing a shark until the middle of the second installment. It’s supposed to be making fun of itself but it can’t because it’s too busy self-consciously loving itself. Sharknado is basically a nationwide circle jerk with lots of buttered popcorn.

This one has the same semistar lineup of newsmen on coffee break and gag guests they found doing dinner theater for food. Bo Derek played April’s mother, May. Get it? It’s subtle and becomes less funny each time you hear it, like the B-sharps on the Simpsons. Ryan Newman plays April and Fin’s daughter, Claudia Shepard, who causes all the trouble by leaving her cellphone on a rollercoaster. Jack Griffo plays Claudia’s friend, Billy.

Cassie Scerbo plays Nova, who still hasn’t become a stripper after three installments begging her. Frankie Muniz was a lifesaver, more of a breath mint than a floatation device, but still. His rejoinders like finding mini trampolines in sharks almost brought comedy to this farce. It was kind of tough seeing Malcolm be left with nothing but his middle. But it was a creamy middle.

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The guest stars are all grandstanders on their last stand. Jerry Springer is a tourist named Mr. White; Washington Redskins tackle Tom Compton plays a reporter; Chris Kirkpatrick from NSYNC keeps the sharks out of the pool and Chris Jericho collects cellphones on the roller coaster.

Half the GOP’s celebrity ticket is on the save first list. Ann Coulter plays the Vice President. Michele Bachmann plays with herself. Mark Cuban says the words that were written for the President of the United States. He awards the golden chainsaw and even lets rip after the swords prove to be not enough firepower against sharks that can get through the White House hallways. Candy Gram.

These are the people most likely to kick shark ass or at least tear up all of DC trying. They immediately succeed in destroying Washington and the Sharknado is unleashed in bursts and storms. Long-dead sharks at Seaworld come back to life to join in on the fun.

Teller has the best lines.

The best bit was probably the earliest. The James Bond spoof. It’s a go-to gag so it doesn’t really count. Since Help and Get Smart, it’s kind of become the “knock knock” joke of filmed comedy.

Fin has got one heavy car for a two-door. The wind is supposed to be so strong that the Golden Chainsaw recipient is perpendicular to the floor and hanging with dear life, but the car doesn’t budge. That’s a tough sports sedan. Next season maybe we’ll see NASCARnado.

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Sharknado 3 is awash with movie references but they overuse Bambi meets Godzilla. The movie always has an eye on iconic imagery. From the finned flag at Iwo Jima in the opening to the shark’s Fin doing that manly stomp to the undulating grind of I’m a badass on his way to the rocket, every moment is canned in self-conscious aggrandizing.

Sharks in space. Now this is where they belong. If only their lungs didn’t implode the sharks could be perfectly happy with infinity as their ocean. But no. The force is too strong with Fin and he Jedi light sabers them into an oblivion bouillabaisse.

I’m not an elitist. I like bad movies, sometimes even when they intend to be bad. But Sharknado takes this to a far too cynical place to really enjoy the fun of it. Every commercial is tied in to it. There are platitudes and attitudes built into the fabric of something like this that are nowhere in the truly great bad films. Those films have heart. The filmmakers tried to do something they believed in and failed, in the best cases gloriously. This is just more fries than burger. This is the corn syrup. Sharks can’t swallow that.

I didn’t vote, but I would have voted for April to die. 


1.5 out of 5