Written by: Jeffrey Schenck & Peter Sullivan (story), Michael Ciminera & Richard Gnolfo (screenplay and story)
Directed by: John Shepphird
Starring: Jack Scalia, Jeremy Luke and Joey Russo
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
ďSmile you stupid fish!"
Iíve never seen an episode of Jersey Shore, but from what I can gather, itís the nadir of our infatuation with faux-celebrity culture, so thereís an obvious appeal in seeing these people (or approximations of them) get eaten by sharks. A title like Jersey Shore Shark Attack seemingly promises an opportunity to relish in the oblivion of manufactured socialite stardom, but, surprisingly, the film turns this ignominious sector of society into proletarian heroes defending their turf not only from killer sharks, but also their more natural enemies: affluent white preppies. Even more surprising? It works since the film is just clever enough to cushion its own badness with a modicum of self-awareness and good-natured bone-headedness.
As is (I assume) typically the case on the Jersey Shore, the love life of its citizens is in disarray, as ďThe ComplicationĒ (Jeremy Luke) has been sleeping around on Nooki (Melissa Molinaro), who still clings to him despite breaking up with him during a Ferris wheel ride (I wouldnít be at all surprised to learn this is spoofing an actual episode of the TV series). Anyway, TCís name ends up being a misnomer because nothingís all that complicated for him and his crew since they mostly spend their days participating in wet T-shirt contests, lifting weights, and scrapping with the popped-collar white kids (and their parents) who want to rid the shore of what they perceive to be guido trash. Soon, though, TC and company face another white menace in the form of a rare species of killer albino sharks that descend on the area.
Usually, Iíd be pulling for the sharks in a movie that pits privileged whiteys against Jersey mouth-breathers, but, impossibly, this film somehow makes the latter pretty damn endearing. Maybe itís because itís aiming so low by riffing on a scene that represents the death of culture--as I understand it, it doesnít take much to parody this bunch, so maybe itís a smart, almost subversive move to avoid making Jersey Shore Shark Attack a form of cinematic wish fulfillment. While many of the actors are clearly spoofing their real-life counterparts with highly affected accents and ridiculous appearances (most of the guys are simply a collection of washboard abs, hair-grease, and bronze skin, the girls a mountain of makeup, ugh boots, and sass), thereís something strangely earnest about Lukeís performance as TC. Itís almost as if no one let him in on the joke because he proceeds with so much seriousness that not even a hint of a wink can emerge from his furrowed brow. Between his daddy issues (his fatherís a cop who disapproves of his perpetual fuck-ups) and his awesome guido code of ethics, TCís a fine meathead with a heart of gold. I have to think that Jersey Shore Shark Attack makes a better case for his ilk than Jersey Shore actually does.
The film pulls off a minor miracle in that respect, but it canít quite outrun its SyFy Movie of the Week trappings. The network (now infamous for this sort of thing) didnít actually produce the film (nor did frequent cohorts The Asylum), but itís often difficult to tell since the usual problems plague Jersey Shore Shark Attack: some poor acting, a loose script, and low production values. The latter point is most evident whenever the CGI sharks show up, which is far too often--I know films like this arenít in the business of creating actual suspense, but, for once, itíd be nice to just take a page out of Spielbergís playbook and simply not show the shark. At least itís not all bad in this case, though, since this oneís got the decency to feature a few instances of practical gore effects in the way of corpses, severed limbs, and actual blood spray. Another scene featuring a victim being attacked by an obviously fake shark head is on par with Bela Lugsoi wrestling with a giant octopus in Bride of the Monster, but within the SyFy canon, it qualifies as a rare moment featuring appreciable practicality.
Other familiar SyFy sights are present as well, such as the parade of familiar faces showing up for an easy paycheck. William Atherton is a slimy land developer looking to beautify (read: white-out) the shore, while Paul Sorvino is the crooked mayor thatís paving the way for the gentrification process by turning a blind eye to old statutes and such. Joey Fatone makes a cameo as the obligatory faded idol whoís dismayed at having to slum it on a small stage (a stretch Iím sure), but heís not around for too long to sulk about where NíSyncís demise has left him. No shark film would be complete without lifting a beat for five from Jaws, but at least Jersey Shore Shark Attack is cheeky enough to half-spoof these moments. Even the U.S.S. Indianapolis speech is tackled when Tony Sirico (filling out both the club owner and kind old coot slots) tells the boys the story about the real Jersey Shore attacks from back in 1916 in a deadpanned monologue about his grandfather and a harpoon gun that sets up the filmís riotous climax.
Jersey Shore Shark Attack has a lot of fun moments like that; unlike a lot of its fellow bad shark movies, it has a knowing sense of humor and earns a bunch of intentional laughs (for example, one of the sharks is repeatedly referred to as ďthe shark that killed Joey FatoneĒ). By the time the film came down to a bunch of glorified bronzed mannequins wielding a small cache of military grade weapons, I was howling. Itís difficult not to find some charm in a film that mixes class warfare with shark attacks and manages to lionize a bunch of bros who just want to defend their turf from man and beast. Ironically, this movie features characters who deserve glory and idolization since they manage to contribute to society by ridding the shore of both yuppie scum and killer sharks, something that Iím sure the actual cast of Jersey Shore will never be able to claim. If you missed it when it aired earlier this year (and I canít fault you for that), check it out on Anchor Bayís recent DVD release, which tosses in an on set feature and a commentary with the producers and director John Shepphird. Most of the time, these films only get a half-hearted recommendation from me, but Jersey Shore Shark Attack earns maybe a three-quarter-hearted recommendation since it does just enough to separate itself from a weak pack. Rent it!
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