Jaws 3-D

Jaws 3-D


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

In 1983, with Return Of The Jedi beckoning Star Wars fans back into cinemas, the other big franchise of the era felt the need to compete. Few films had ever made quite such an impression on audiences as Jaws and its sequel hadn't done badly either. The problem was, nobody involved in the original wanted to appear in a third film (Roy Scheider actually signed up for Blue Thunder just to guarantee his escape). The solution? Include his character's kids, now all grown up and, in the case of the young one, afraid to go back in the water. How to get people to notice the film? Make it extra dynamic by shooting key moments in 3D.

3D, which has come and gone in waves through much of the history of cinema, was on the verge of becoming a big thing at the time. It had featured in a couple of successful horror movies but this was the film that brought it to mainstream audiences. It was this reviewer's first experience with 3D and I can remember how thrilling it seemed. Unfortunately the rest of the film leaves a lot to be desired.

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Dennis Quaid and John Putch play the Brady boys. The former, back when he was still pretty but before he could act, is one of the most passive heroes in any action-focused film, barely even raising his voice until the final reel and dressing all in beige like somebody's grandpa. Fortunately this leaves room for a strong heroine, with Kay (Bess Armstrong), asserting herself both in and out of the water despite a little too much family values schmaltz at the end. Together with their dolphin pals Cindy and Sandy (SeaWorld Orlando stars basically playing themselves) they investigate the mysterious munching of a colleague from the water park where they work. This is owned by Calvin (Louis Gossett Jr), who, like many such characters before him, is more worried about the bottom line than a moderate amount of peril for his staff and guests. He does, however, warm to the idea of taking the shark prisoner to put it on display, and that's where the trouble really starts.

Though it has its share of gory moments, several of them imitating favourite scenes from the first film, Jaws 3-D ultimately suffers from the same problem as many cute animal films aimed at kids. It spends far too much of its time on boring humans and their boring relationships. The audience isn't there to go on a double date with the Brody boys or hang out in Calvin's idea of a glamorous restaurant. It's there to see destruction and wailing and gnashing of teeth. To get away with human drama, one needs a really skilled writer like Peter Benchley. What we get here in between the attacks isn't tension, it's ennui.

Original producer David Brown had originally wanted to make this film a spoof. Had he done so, he might have had a Sharknado-style marketing phenomenon on his hands. As it is, the film is definitely a B-movie in terms of quality, but it won't admit it, so it doesn't make enough of its intrinsic cheesiness. Still, the moments when the shark attacks - still with elements of John Williams' famous score - remain thrilling, and there's one breakthrough scene near the end that makes up for most of what has gone before. There was evidently potential here - it just needed to be a bit more snappy.

Reviewed on: 08 Aug 2013
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A giant shark gets trapped in a water park and starts snacking on swimmers.
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Director: Joe Alves

Writer: Richard Matheson

Starring: Dennis Quaid, Bess Armstrong, Simon MacCorkindale, Lea Thompson, Louis Gossett Jr, John Putch, Cindy, Sandy

Year: 1983

Runtime: 99 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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