Thursday, September 13, 2018

Reserved Seating Jumps the Shark: JAWS: THE REVENGE

by Adam Riske and Rob DiCristino
The review duo that have always wanted to (separately) make love to an angry welder.

Rob: Welcome to Reserved Seating. I’m Rob DiCristino.

Adam: And I’m Adam Riske.
Rob: The final entry in our summer Jaws retrospective is 1987’s Jaws: The Revenge, the last and perhaps most infamous of the three sequels. When Amity police deputy Sean Brody (Mitchell Anderson) is killed by a great white shark, the recently-widowed Ellen Brody (Lorraine Gary) becomes convinced that great white sharks are hunting her family. Hoping she’ll see how batshit insane that is, Michael Brody (Lance Guest) invites his mother to the Bahamas (where he works as a research scientist) to clear her head. There, she’s charmed by the rakish pilot Hoagie (Michael Caine), but she can’t shake the feeling that the shark is coming for her. Wouldn’t you know? It is!

Jaws: The Revenge is often denounced as one of the worst films ever made. It’s a weird, neutered mess, for sure, but I’ll tell you what: I found it a thousand times more watchable than Jaws 3D. Adam, what are your thoughts on Jaws: The Revenge?

Adam: I’ll go one step further. I would rather re-watch Jaws: The Revenge than Jaws 2 or Jaws 3D. It’s more interestingly bad, whereas the previous two entries were mostly just boring or trying to recapture the magic of the original film. Jaws: The Revenge is off its rocker. I have a long history with this movie. It came out when I was five and I remember being captivated by the poster, especially as I was just starting to get obsessed with sharks. When I saw that artwork of the shark jumping vertically out of the ocean with enormous waves at its side, I thought it looked like the coolest movie ever made. Before I ever saw a Jaws movie I used to “play Jaws.” This consisted of me jumping from couches and chairs to other furniture in order to avoid my feet hitting the carpet because the carpet was the ocean and if I hit the ocean then my friends would tackle me because they were the shark. I took it very seriously.

Rob: We’re definitely playing Jaws next time we see each other. It sounds amazing.
Adam: Show me the way to Rob’s! Jaws: The Revenge looked appropriately terrifying to kindergarten me and I didn’t have any frame of reference for its place in the franchise back then, which definitely helped. It was the first Jaws movie I ever watched. I vividly remember going to swimming lessons and watching bits of Jaws: The Revenge on cable frequently during the summer of 1988. I was pretty obsessed with it back then. I recall being very scared at Sean Brody’s (spoiler) death at the beginning of the movie (end spoiler). On this rewatch, that makes total sense because I think the movie is a little bit scary almost because of how ineptly its made. The poor craftsmanship of the filmmaking gives it an "off" quality. Long story short, I think Jaws: The Revenge is a bad movie, but it’s one I don’t hate at all. Reel talk: Do you think Ellen Brody waved shark pictures in Martin Brody’s face to induce his heart attack? Otherwise, how did the shark (or the fear of the shark) kill him?

Rob: Right? Though to be fair, I’d be seeing shark’s fins in my cereal if I’d gone through that shit twice. Anyway, I don’t have the nostalgia for Jaws: The Revenge that you do (I didn’t see it until I was in college), but like you said, it has a total Looney Tunes quality that makes it fun. It’s the best kind of bad movie, one with a thousand little story threads and goofy moments that raise questions that are never answered. It has ideas (some of them good!) but zero clue about how to execute them. I want to get into all of that, but I have to start with this one bit because it’s been on my mind all day: This is the horniest Jaws movie. Like, every single person in this movie is obsessed with boning. Or talking about boning. Or thinking about the ways in which they’re going to bone when they’re older. Shirtless dudes. Bikini babes. Angry welders who slingshot underwear at their spouses. They even talk about boning on Christmas morning. It’s amazing. This is the Ant-Man and the Wasp of the Jaws universe.
Adam: They could retitle this movie How Ellen Got Her Groove Back. I agree that the Brody family is down to fuck surprisingly fast after Sean’s death, but I guess when your boy’s in the ground, it’s time to pound. I don’t know if I agree with you that the movie has good ideas, but I can’t wait to hear what the ones you have in mind are. I think the movie does two things legitimately well - 1) there’s a shot when the banana boat lady is getting eaten where the boat is driving away from the attack that is chilling and 2) I think Lance Guest gives about the best performance you can in this movie. I feel really bad for him because this had to have scuttled his career.

Rob: He’s good, and he’s not the only one. The problem is that the tone of this movie is so all over the place that it’s hard to get a real read on any of these characters (Except Jake. He just wants to drink beer and win grant money). No disrespect, but Lorraine Gary seems very...lost at several points. There are times when she’s forcing herself to cry that come off about as bad as when anyone else tries, but there are also some bonkers line deliveries that lead me to believe she thought this was a very different movie than it turned out to be. At one point, she’s dancing with her son and whimsically tells him, “Your brother’s death nearly killed me. I’ll never get over it…” and then sort of whips her hair playfully and keeps on dancing. Earlier, she’s walking through that festival with Hoagie and keeps ignoring him while he’s trying to give her advice on how to get over her family’s various murders. He’s like, “Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to,” and she’s laughing and going, “Get me a drink! Woah! Bongo drums!” There was definitely a point where I thought Michael Caine looked so bored that he might go into that Dark Knight monologue about the guy with the ruby the size of a tangerine. It would make about as much sense as anything else. I also want to point out that “Hoagie” is a Philadelphian term for a submarine sandwich. It’s always been a real distraction in this movie.
Anyway, should we talk about the shark action? It’s somehow both better and worse than Jaws 3D. It’s choppy and incoherent, but again, it has slightly more energy. I thought the underwater attack in the sunken ship (?) was a cool idea poorly executed. I liked that they tried something with the shark POV where the camera would keep breaching the surface as it approached its target. It’s something, right? The pole connecting the shark to the sled on the ocean floor was visible at several points, but I couldn’t focus on that because the shark kept pitching and rolling like an airplane in the wider shots and it made me giggle. I don’t know. It’s so bad, but it’s charming.

Adam: I couldn’t take my eyes off of the visible stitching on the shark’s tail during that scene. That sunken ship/reef (?) sequence was a scene I really dug as a kid because the water was light blue just like it was at the pool. I definitely dipped my head underwater during swimming lessons expecting the shark from Jaws: The Revenge to be slowly paddling towards me. Oh, a child’s imagination.

I think everyone is waiting for us to get into all of the most terrible moments in the film. Want to each name one and go back and forth?

Rob: The sepia-toned flashbacks from the original Jaws. Just...stop. If that wasn’t bad enough, they try to replicate the dinner table scene in the most ham-fisted way possible. Oh, and the portrait in the police station! Look, The Revenge. Have your Bahama beach party if you must, but keep Martin Brody’s name out of your mouth.

Adam: I could feel you dying inside when I re-watched the imitation scene. I like how Ellen Brody doesn’t just walk in like a normal person and say “You and your dad used to do that,” but instead she stands silently watching her son and granddaughter like she’s Norman Bates staring through a peephole.

I thought it was funny that Mrs. Kitner from the original Jaws has a cameo where she’s there to console Ellen after Sean’s death. It’s like “Finally! I have a peer. Do you want to make shirts? Ya Ya!”

Rob: I like when little Thea Brody (Judith Barsi) goes, “Uncle Sean is dead, you know! Do you think he’ll ever come back?” I started writing this other movie in my head where this little girl plays in the sand and tries to resurrect her dead uncle. That banana boat scene was all about getting her in the water so she could look for clues.

I loved that the first full-body shot of the shark was just him swimming along the East coast (?) toward the Bahamas. No build-up, no action, no suspense. No real context. The movie just wanted you to know that he was swimming along and would be with us shortly. I started writing another movie in my head about his adventures during his 1,200 mile journey.
Should we mention that this movie ignores some of the continuity of Jaws 3D? The marketing campaign famously referred to The Revenge as “The third film in the thrilling Jaws trilogy.”

Adam: Wow, it did? I didn’t know that.

Rob: If IMDb is to be believed.

Adam: I guess that makes sense, since The Revenge ignores evolution, common sense, etc. Speaking of common sense, why are the Brodys all like “ Wheeeee!” when Hoagie is dive bombing the plane loaded with all the living Brodys right after the death of one of their family members? I noticed a lot of plane shenanigans during this revisit. When Hoagie gives Ellen control of the plane later in the film, they’re shown flying almost at ground level based on the side windows. It’s like they’re driving!

Rob: I noticed that, too! I feel like people are waiting for us to bring up the roaring shark and the awful miniature shot of it exploding when it’s impaled by the ship’s bow...thing.

Adam: I could not make sense of the opening shark attack and the shark’s death based on how choppily it was edited, so I paused the DVD and went shot by shot. The opening is mostly a crazy amount of teeth (maybe too many teeth) and what looks like a seal attacking a raincoat. The shark’s demise is fantastic. It’s the full-scale shark being impaled, then shots of three separate very tiny models all blowing up in succession. It’s astounding. I also like the reasoning I heard once (I can’t remember where) about why the shark exploded from being impaled. The explanation was that it got stabbed in the very spot that electronic device was in its body after Mario Van Peebles shoved it down the shark’s throat. That’s a more one in a million shot than Luke Skywalker (spoiler) taking down the Death Star (end spoiler) in Episode IV.

Rob: That whole sequence is magical. I recommend everyone YouTube it as soon as possible.

I want to bring up some trivia related to the infamous novelization, which was written by Hank Sears and based on early script drafts. According to

“The novelization of the film…included many scenes and subplots that ultimately got removed. Some of the excised material includes…Thea being hypnotized and almost wandering into the water at night where the shark waits, the death of a windsurfer, a humorous scene involving a drunken retired newscaster and the shark, a drive-by shooting where the Brodys are nearly injured, and a foot pursuit. Mike's secrecy of the shark takes a strain on his marriage, and he also retains a monitoring device in the bedroom…Deleted characters include an island gangster who is ultimately killed by the shark, Hoagie's law enforcement partner, and Papa Jacques, a voodoo doctor…After an altercation with Mike Brody, Papa Jacques summons the Shark to do his bidding…Several segments also take place from the shark's point of view and it's revealed that the shark is actually a pawn and can't understand the force driving it where it needs to go.”

Adam: What are we even doing, Universal? Just make another Jaws movie not involving the Brodys. It would solve all of your problems! This is like buying the Kellogg Company because you want a single Pop Tart. Don’t overthink it!
Rob: And can we PLEASE get a Jaws movie starring Papa Jacques!? Papa Jacques’ Jaws Force. P.J. commands a legion of sharks with voodoo magic. Directed by WHET. Who are we casting as Papa Jacques?

Adam: Idris Elba. Tagline: Better shark. Better voodoo. Papa Jacques.

Rob: Sold. I don’t know about you, but I’m Mark Ahn on Jaws: The Revenge. You’re never going to replicate Jaws. Jaws 2 tries and fails. Jaws 3D tries something completely different and forgets to make it compelling. Jaws: The Revenge is so incompetent and misguided that it becomes completely enthralling. Addition by subtraction. Or something. It doesn’t matter.

Adam: Why does the boat bleed when the shark bites into wood? Why does a Jaws movie feature a huge Billboard single (“You Got It All” by The Jets)? Why is a Moray Eel the scariest fish in a movie about a killer Great White Shark? How does Mario Van Peebles not die when the shark bites down flush into his torso and drags him underwater? Wouldn’t he at least bleed to death before reaching land again? Jaws: The Revenge doesn’t hold your hand like most movies. It wants to work this stuff out for yourself. Mark Ahn from me too for Jaws: The Revenge. What movie that doesn’t hold a candle to Jaws: The Revenge are we reviewing next week?

Rob: All Pacino returns with 1996’s City Hall, which neither of us has seen. It co-stars John Cusack and Bridget Fonda. It had also better co-star a killer shark. Until next time…

Adam: These seats are reserved.

1 comment:

  1. This may be the funniest yet in this series. “When your boy’s in the ground, it’s time to pound” almost made me do an actual spit take. I agree with you on this movie being extremely entertaining. Although I remember actually liking Jaws 2 more than you guys, but maybe it’s because I like anything with Roy Scheider.