Jersey Shore Shark Attack (2012)
Directed by Jeff Shepphird
None of the characters in Jersey Shore Shark Attack based on real “Jersey Shore” TV show personalities get eaten by sharks. This strikes me as a fundamental misunderstanding of why many people would want to watch a movie called Jersey Shore Shark Attack. It makes even less sense in hindsight given how completely expendable all of the “Jersey Shore” inspired characters are except for the film’s versions of Snooki and The Situation. Would it have killed the filmmakers to allow “Paulie Balzac” or “J-Moni” to get smushed by an albino bull shark?
When I took part in a Syfy conference call with the producers and cast the week leading up to the film’s premiere, this question was brought up by someone who had already seen the movie. The argument the two producers made was that nobody out there really hates Snooki or The Situation or the rest of the “Jersey Shore” cast; it’s more of a people we love to hate but we don’t really hate them or the show kind of deal. They explained that the reason none of them die in the film is that the “Jersey Shore” cast are such “dynamic personalities” that the audience would be unhappy even to see their fictional counterparts die on film.
Oh, really? I know I hate that damn show and cannot figure out why anyone watches it even ironically. I also know I’m not alone on that one. The cast of “Jersey Shore” are in that same stratosphere of soul-sucking pop culture parasitism as Paris Hilton and the Kardashians. I remember a packed theater erupting in applause when Paris Hilton got killed in House of Wax, and that was actually her, not just an actress playing a part based on her. The Situation practically got booed off-stage a Comedy Central roast. For crying out loud, when “South Park” parodied “Jersey Shore” Snooki was portrayed as a whorish, chain-smoking, rat-like creature whose fame could not be explained by anyone and America turned to Osama Bin Laden to help save us from the Jersey scourge. Regardless of whether it’s out of genuine disdain or merely people we “love to hate” as they argue, if we’re laughing at Al Qaida crashing passenger planes into the “Jersey Shore” cast on “South Park", imagine how hard we’d laugh seeing fictional versions of them devoured by ravenous sharks.
The producers’ logic makes even less sense given the movie’s highlight is Joey Fatone appearing as himself just long enough to get eaten by a shark. Using their argument, shouldn’t the audience be unhappy to see Joey Fatone die on film? Mr. Fatone is going to be so disappointed to learn the makers of a movie called Jersey Shore Shark Attack must not consider him nearly the unkillable “dynamic personality” that Sammi Sweetheart is.
So, yeah, I can’t help but be let down that all of the “Jersey Shore” characters not only live, they prove themselves to be the heroes when it comes time to kill the sharks. It does goes down a little easier given the movie’s version of the “Jersey Shore” personalities are far less contemptible than their real-life counterparts. None of them made me want to instantly change the channel so that has to count for something. Even as intentionally dumb as they’re portrayed they still seem much smarter than the real thing, too.
Our main guido hero is TC “The Complication” (Because when the ladies see his washboard abs things get complicated). He’s such a lunkhead he’s really more a mamaluke than a guido. He’s at odds with his on-again/off-again girlfriend Nooki, played by actress Melissa Molinaro, who is not a short orange troll and is thus far too attractive to be playing a character based on Snooki. I have a hard time believing the real-life Snooki would denounce materialism like her movie version does, though I do believe the real Snooki would wear Wonder Woman’s bracelets for earrings like Nooki does.
Illegal underwater drilling from a Seaside Heights pier arouses the attention of a school of albino bull sharks that waste no times making chum out of anyone in the water. The Complication and his brotherhood of spray tans and steroids are the only witnesses to the pigment-deprived bull shark invasion but getting anyone to believe them proves difficult what with them being a bunch of dimwitted guidos. Being dimwitted guidos means their idea of hunting sharks initially consists of shooting fireworks at them and trying to bait them with protein bars. “Nothing’s going to resist 25 grams of power-packed peanut butter crunch!”
Yeah, I’m still rooting for the sharks in this one.
But Jersey Shore Shark Attack isn’t just about riffing on Jaws “Jersey Shore” style. A good deal of the plot has the guidos and guidettes clashing with rich preppy snobs thumbing their nose at them. Just to show you how much times have changed, the actors playing the rich snobs, despite their emo Donald Trump hairdos, look more like the guys that would get cast as the bullied slackers in an 80s movie and the guido actors look like the guys who’d be playing the jocks bullying them in that same 80s movie. The world has clearly left me behind.
For a network that I know to be vehemently opposed to allowing the makers of their original movies to produce campy creature features that lean more on the comedic side it makes me wonder how Jersey Shore Shark Attack got past their anti-comedy stance. It is the most intentionally comedic Syfy original movie I can recall. The parody caricatures of “Jersey Shore”, exaggerated performances straight out of the Eddie Deezan school of overacting, the corny dialogue peppered with all manner of Jersey-ese, the tongue-in-cheek catchphrase slates that pop up between scenes, the whole slobs vs. snobs subplot, the blatant silliness of it all: this is less a Syfy movie than a genre comedy made in the same vein as the sort of flicks that used to air on USA Network’s “Up All Night”. It’s because of that Jersey Shore Shark Attack goes down easier than so many other Syfy movies that aren’t allowed to be intentionally funny and just end up being stupid. Not to say Jersey Shore Shark Attack isn’t stupid because, well, it is, very much so. It just happens to be the rare Syfy movie you can actually with as well as at.
The late Joey Fatone won’t be the only familiar Italian-American face to make an appearance. The Complication’s police chief dad is played admirably by Jack Scalia. I’ve seen Scalia in enough b-movies to know he’s a consummate pro that never phones it in even regardless of how corny the film may be.
The great Paul Sorvino, on the other hand, does appear to phone in his cameo as the Mayor. To be fair, it’s not like he has much to do during his screen time other than exactly what you expect Mayor’s to do in shark attack movies. Is it wrong of me that the whole time Sorvino was on screen I couldn’t help but notice how much he now facially resembles Droopy Dog?
Tony Sirico (AKA “The Sopranos” own Paulie Walnuts) appears briefly as the proprietor of the boardwalk bar who gets to go all Robert Shaw telling the guidos the true story of the 1916 Jersey Shore shark attack. I learned that if you want to kill a shark be sure to shoot it through its left eye because that’s the eye of the devil. Okay, then.
William Atherton, in one of his all-too-rare roles as a self-centered jerk, turns up for a few scenes as the father of one of the rich snobs, an Italian-hating real estate developer responsible for the illegal drilling that is part of his plan to transform Seaside Heights into a golf course resort for the super rich that will rival the Hamptons.
Actual “Jersey Shore” cast member Vinny Guadagnino appears periodically as the world’s most excitable TV reporter. If I was him I wouldn’t expect much future work as either an actor or a news reporter when “Jersey Shore” gets cancelled. The way he would constantly lean forward and jitter about antsy as he delivered the latest on-the-scene report, he looked like a cokehead sprinter overanxiously awaiting the sound of the starter pistol to begin a race.
Fairing less favorably were the albino bull sharks, some of the phoniest visual creature effects seen in a Syfy movie of late. I can only assume they blew most of the effects budget getting Paul Sorvino and Joey Fatone to show up for a day’s work. Too many of the shark attacks for the first half tend to be pretty uninspired and poorly staged, but I will say by the time Joey Fatone bites it – literally – the sharks may as well have been explained to be part frog they do so much jumping around. Wasn’t aware you could kill a shark by shooting its fin, either. Must be like driving a stake through a vampire’s heart.
In good conscience I could never tell you to spend money buying or renting this film. I will say I was amused enough that if you happen upon it on Syfy, you’ve got two hours to kill, and you know what you’re getting into, you might have some fun. If you want to see Snooki get eaten by a shark, I’m afraid you’ll still have to use your imagination.
3 out of 5