Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra
The odds of getting attacked and killed by a shark are less than 1 in 3,748,067. That’s about the same as my odds of giving The Shallows a positive review.
I wanted to like it, but between Jaume Collet-Serra’s sledgehammer-style direction, Anthony Jaswinski’s intelligence-insulting screenplay, and Marco Beltrami’s misguided musical score, The Shallows is impossible to endorse. Genre fans will be especially disappointed by the lack of horror and suspense – if you were expecting something along the lines of Jaws or Open Water, you can lower those expectations right now, folks.
The story follows Nancy (Blake Lively), a medical student who’s recently lost her mother to cancer. She leaves her dad and her little sister home in Galveston, Texas, to go on a spiritual quest for a mysterious beach in Mexico that Mom loved. Nancy miraculously finds the unnamed patch of sand and surf, strips down to her string bikini, grabs her board, and catches a wave.
Then a super-sized shark catches her – she’s badly bitten but eventually manages to get to an outcropping of offshore rocks just breaking the surface of the water. The predator circling her stony sanctuary is in search of a snack, and it prefers blondes.
With low tide, she’s somewhat safe… but what happens if Nancy is not rescued by the time high tide comes along? She’s not too far from the beach, but just far enough to tempt the circumnavigating shark. She gets the attention of a few beachcombers and surf bums… all of whom suffer CGI-gore, PG-13 fates. (And speaking of the rating, that’s got to be the only reason Nancy’s flimsy floss beachwear never budges an inch throughout her entire ordeal.)
Nancy has to come up with a plan. She does, and she says it out loud. Every single thought in the trapped Texan’s noggin is spelled out as if we the audience are not bright enough to follow what’s going on without implicit instructions. There’s also an eye-rolling, heartstring-tugging “vision of dearly-departed mom” sequence… pass the barf bag, please!
Before hell breaks loose in the form of a teeth-gnashing Great White, there are lots of scenes showing fun-in-the-sun surfing. It amazes me that the wave-riding sequences in a big-budget big-studio 2016 film can’t even begin to compete with the seminal surfing documentary Endless Summer… made 50 years ago in 1966! Worse, many of the underwater sequences are clearly cheated, and so poorly, that it’s plain to see the actress’ hair is dry as a bone.
For a movie that aims to be taken seriously (nope, this is not a Sharknado fun-flick by any means), there’s an array of almost-laughable lapses in logic and even a Wile E. Coyote vs. Roadrunner set-piece that would be hilarious had it been handled differently.
Having said all that, The Shallows isn’t all bad. The computer-created big-ass shark looks decent (however, he or she is sans personality). Lively is well cast and does her best. The acting is not on par with her work in The Town or Savages by any stretch, but that’s not her fault. Given the gawd-awful dialogue, she admirably acquits herself. And thankfully the movie doesn’t wear out its welcome with an overly-long runtime. At a bite-sized 90 minutes, it’s brisk and to the point. What’s more, there’s the obligatory cute animal companion – “Steven Seagull” – there to steal scenes.
If you’re in the mood for a thriller with a little action and you want to see Blake Lively in a bikini, then maybe The Shallows is worth an hour and a half of your time. If not, then guess what… it’s “Shark Week” on the Discovery channel.