Sunday, July 29, 2012

Summer of '87: Jaws: The Revenge: This Time, It's (Im)Personal

"This time, it's personal." So reads the tagline for the ill-fated Jaws: The Revenge. Never mind that in each of the three previous films the sharks died. Jaws 2 and Jaws 3-D may have foisted hopelessly contrived plots on viewers, but neither went as far as to imply that their respective sharks were exacting revenge on Chief Brody and his family for past crimes. We weren't led to think that the sharks were in the same family or part of a hive-mind network. But here is a premise that—while no more implausible than the other films in the series—actually seems to acknowledge the folly of a franchise chronicling one family's long saga of encounters with great whites. That's why I give the writers (or the marketing team?) of Jaws: The Revenge credit for understanding at least one thing: If you're going to serve up the absurd, don’t hold back. In fact, pour it on. Both the title and tagline of Joseph Sargent's film more than meet this standard. The movie itself is another story.
In this final entry in the gray people-eater series, Ellen Brody (Lorraine Gary) carries on at Amity Island without her husband, Police Chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider), who has died of a heart attack. Ellen lives with her youngest son Sean (Mitchell Anderson), who undertakes his father's legacy as an Amity Police Deputy. But a shark still lurks in the waters of Amity and makes Sean its first meal. Already scarred by a deep family history of shark attacks, Ellen follows the advice of her eldest son Michael (Lance Guest) and travels to the Bahamas to gain reprieve from heartbreak. "There are no great whites in the Bahamas, Mom. They don’t like warm water," Michael assures her. Once there, Ellen finds a budding new romance with an eccentric pilot and family friend named Hoagie (Michael Caine), but she remains haunted by visions of a shark. Meanwhile, as Michael studies shells on the sea floor with his friend Jake (Mario Van Peebles), he learns that a great white is prowling the waters but decides not to tell his mother. (The shark's introduction in the Bahamas portion of the film is priceless. The beast just kind of shows up, bumping up against Jake’s underwater vehicle. No tension. No excitement.) Once she discovers that a great white is terrorizing the community (Banana boat!), Ellen becomes convinced that it wants to devour her family and complete the cycle.

Click here to read the full article at Slant Magazine's blog The House Next Door.

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