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Sharknado: The 4th Awakens (2016)

sharknado 4 poster (1)Starring Ian Ziering, Tara Reid, David Hasselhoff, Tommy Davidson, Imani Hakim, Cody Linley, Masiela Lusha, Cheryl Tiegs, Andre “Black Nerd” Meadows, Carrot Top, DeStorm Power, Dolvett Quince, Erika Girardi, Gilbert Gottfried, Seth Rollins, iJustine, Roy Nelson, Stassi Schroeder, Jax Taylor, Paul Schaeffer, Cynthia Bailey, Robert Herjavec, Kym Johnson, Carrie Keagan, T’Keyah Crystal Keymah, Gena Lee Nolin, Alexandra Paul, Benjy Bronk, Dog the Bounty Hunter, Stacey Dash, Jay DeMarcus, David Faustino, Lori Greiner, Frank Mir, Vince Neil, Wayne Newton, Dr. Drew Pinsky, Patti Stanger, Corey Taylor, Al Roker, and the Chippendale Dancers

Directed by Anthony C. Ferrante


When providing a screener of Sharknado: The 4th Awakens for review purposes, Syfy requested that we please don’t reveal spoilers. Now that I’ve watched it, I find myself wondering what they expect me to write about.

The premise of Sharknado: The 4th Awakens, while constantly threatening to but never quite fully actualizing into a bona fide storyline (which, admittedly, is still more of a plot than the previous two sequels had going for them), remains nothing more than an excuse to set up a series of idiotic events comprised of D-list celebrity cameos, random shark/tornado attacks, eye-rolling puns, chainsaw fu, and other assorted nonsense typically only seen in a gonzo Japanese genre flick – and those are the selling points. That’s why you’re watching, right? Nobody watches a porn movie and complains about the bad acting or lack of an adequate plot. Make no doubt about it; Sharknado: The 4th Awakens is shark porn.

I make no apologies about loving the original Sharknado. Boy, what a happy accident that movie seems in retrospect. The second one had its moments but felt more like a feature-length internet meme than an actual movie. As did the third, although for me the joke had worn so thin I found it to be an absolute chore to sit through. Sharknado: The 4th Awakens won me back initially, only to lose me yet again.

The 17-minute pre-title sequence – possibly the longest prologue since the Friday the 13th reboot – sees Ian Ziering back as the returning Sharknado slayer Fin Shepherd trying to save his family from a Las Vegas Sharknado (Las Vegas Sharknadoes, by the way, sounds like it would be a great name for an Arena Football team) in a frenzied series of events so preposterously over-the-top it sets up Sharknado: The 4th Awakens for its biggest problem: Nothing that follows can top it. The movie works in reverse. The biggest action sequence opens the film, and by the 45-minute mark the set pieces began to feel less and less bombastic, limping to a ridiculous climax that still seemed underwhelming compared to the all-out Michael Bay-if-he-dropped-acid-and-had-a-stroke-after-watching-Jaws opening destruction of Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon train sequence that almost immediately followed it.

First rule of porn (shark or otherwise): Never blow your wad in the first act.

This also leads me to a theorize that perhaps the Sharknado premise works better in short form than long form. Like how The Three Stooges’ shorts are classics but their few full-length feature films wear thin.

A tech billionaire (“In Living Color” alumnus Tommy Davidson), who is either a good guy or potential villain depending on what way the wind is blowing from scene-to-scene, has developed some anti-tornado atmospheric technology that has kept the world Sharknado-free for five years. All that comes to an end about five minutes into the movie for no particular reason other than Sharknadoes simply will not be denied. Just so happens that Fin Shepherd and family are gathering in Las Vegas at the opening of the billionaire’s new shark-themed hotel/casino/aquarium, thus explaining (sorta) where all the sharks and flood waters hail from when a massive dust devil roars in from the desert.

Wouldn’t this be like if Donald Trump actually became President, really did single-handedly eliminate all of radical Islam, and then decided to open a “Jihad Land” amusement park? Seems like sharks aren’t a creature you’d want to celebrate following so many national sharktastrophes.

From then on, shark happens for the next 80 minutes until time runs out and a cliffhanger literally drops from the sky to set up the inevitable Sharknado 5. The escalating procession of the implausible includes The Fins & the Furious skydiving car sequence, the introduction of shark-fighting cyborgs, David Hasselhoff dressed like Master Chief gone scuba diving, a Chippendale dancer repelling a shark with a groin thrust, “cownado,” a scene that comes to a dead stop so two nameless characters can do a shameless commercial extolling the virtues of Infinity XM, locomotive sharkcapitation, sharks paying homage to Critters 2, and Gary Busey slurring words, often standing in one place in a location separate from the other actors in the scene, because while sharks might be the apex predator, Gary Busey is the most untameable animal in this film.

Judging by the superheroics turn the finale takes, I got the sense Sharknado 4 wanted to be the Saints Row IV of the series, but nothing they come up with is anywhere as sharktacular as the “chum gun” from Saints Row: The Third.

What truly sucked some of the fun out this one for me more than anything else was the plethora of one-liners that shotgunned past groan-inducing and spiked the football right into cringe-inducing territory. I hesitate to even call them one-liners. We get a cyborg character saying, “I’ll be back,” “Come with me if you want to live,” and “May the Force be with you” after whipping out a lightsaber as well as someone in a cherry red ’57 Plymouth Fury announcing their car’s name is “Christine” and adding, “She’s bad to the bone”; those aren’t jokes… those are references – references that have been referenced to death for 30 years. So many of the “jokes” here aren’t just on the nose, they’re punching us in ours. Just lazily tossing out famous catchphrases Friedberg/Seltzer-style to make the audience go, “Ah, I recognize that line.” Like that scene in The Avengers when Captain America recognized a Wizard of Oz reference and said, “I understood that reference.” See how easy it is to make a movie reference? Steve Rogers would probably love this Sharknado because the Wizard of Oz references are constant.

I’m not even sure why I bothered writing this much about Sharknado: The 4th Awakens. There’s really no reason for me or anyone else to bother casting a critical eye on these films since they are as critic-proof as a movie can get. Zero stars. Five stars. It just doesn’t matter. It. Just. Doesn’t. Matter. I tell you, it just doesn’t matter. Every negative thing one can say about a Sharknado flick practically doubles as its strengths. As I described scenes and dialogue to a coworker, who had a look of slackjawed disbelief at what I was conveying to him, his simply stated response was, “That sounds absolutely terrible. But I kinda wanna see it for myself.” And that’s the point, right? The shark has become self-aware and is actively jumping itself. We’re through the looking glass. Success is failure. Failure is success. Sharknado is a mystery wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma.

Forget it, Foy; it’s Chinatown.

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