Piranha 3DD (2012)

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Piranha 3DDStarring Danielle Panabaker, David Koechner, Matt Bush, Katrina Bowden, David Hasselhoff, Christopher Lloyd, Paul Scheer, Ving Rhames, Gary Busey, Clu Gulager

Directed by John Gulager

The killer fish are back on the hunt in John Gulager’s wickedly fun 80’s-infused sequel Piranha 3DD, and this time a group of water park enthusiasts (and David Hasselhoff as himself) are on the menu.

Piranha 3DD follows a young (almost too young) marine biologist named Maddy, (Danielle Panabaker) who returns home to find that her shady stepfather, Chet (the always hilarious David Koechner), has transformed the family water park into a more ‘adult’-like attraction called Big Wet, complete with wet t-shirt contests, a topless (and bottomless pool) and stripper lifeguards.

Unfortunately for Maddy, Chet and everyone that happens to be in attendance at Big Wet’s reopening celebration, the park just so happens to be located upstream from the now infamous Lake Victoria featured in Piranha 3D; and soon enough the clever and flesh-hungry man-eaters manage to work their way into the park’s water supply, and the results aren’t pretty. Hilarious, but certainly not pretty.

The sequel sees resident genre madman Gulager (the Feast trilogy) at the helm of his biggest budgeted outing to date, and with his lighthearted and hilarious approach, he proves that he was absolutely the right choice to tackle Piranha 3DD, delivering a follow-up that actually manages to surpass its predecessor in a lot of different ways.

The biggest improvement made was that Gulager smartly chose to shoot Piranha 3DD in 3D instead of post-converting, and the difference shows. Piranha 3D had a blurry and shadowed look throughout (especially in the underwater scenes), but this second flick is crisp, clear and the 3D looks pretty stellar all around.

In terms of script duties, horror’s dynamic duo of writing – Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan – have once again knocked it out of the park with their script for Piranha 3DD; their story doesn’t necessarily reinvent the wheel, but the humor plays better this time around, the characters feel a bit more developed than they did in Piranha 3D and the pair managed to write a decent part for Christopher Lloyd in the sequel, making him more of a lovable madman than the wacky nutjob we saw back in 2010.

Speaking of performances, Koechner (who is a personal favorite of this writer) makes for a sublime douchebag in Piranha 3DD and certainly gets to have a lot more fun here than the last time genre fans saw him in Final Destination 5. Panabaker is likable as the film’s heroine but gets upstaged by the stunning and hilarious Katrina Bowden (Tucker and Dale vs. Evil), who delivers what may be THE greatest line of cinematic dialogue in the last ten years or so.

Hasselhoff pretty much reigns supreme over the performances in Piranha 3DD and rightly so; it’s very rare to see a part written for an actor that is this self-deprecating but still manages to come off as an homage at the same time. The Hoff also gets to show off his world-famous set of lungs in the “Fish Hunter/Love Hunter” songs that Gulager specifically wrote for the actor, which are both playful and giggle-inducing.

Returning players Paul Scheer and Ving Rhames show up for some water park carnage, and their moments play pretty great as well (seeing how Rhames sans legs deals with a piranha attack is almost worth the price of admission alone), giving fans of Alexandre Aja’s Piranha 3D even more to look forward to in this sequel.

Of course, the two biggest reasons that most fans of the Piranha flicks show up in the theater are the boobs and the blood, and there is certainly plenty of both to be found in the sequel; actually, the amount of full-on nudity Gulager manages to work into the film without ever coming across as pornographic feeling is truly a remarkable feat, but that’s mostly due to the 80’s comedy vibe Gulager keeps simmering throughout the story. There’s definitely a horndog kind of feel to quite a few moments we see at Big Wet, but they never traverse fully into smut territory, which is either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on which side of the fence you’re on.

There’s definitely less gore in Piranha 3DD than there was in the first flick, but what that really means is that instead of 5,000 dead bodies floating around, now there are only about 2,500. Complaining about the gore here is truly splitting hairs- would it have been great to have more? Sure. But what we do get in Piranha 3DD is still spectacularly bloody and gory and should keep you gorehounds out there pleased as punch.

As a whole Piranha 3DD is a ridiculous amount of fun that feels like Gulager was making his own horror-fied version of comedy classics like Porky’s, Revenge of the Nerds or Meatballs. Sure, the story is pretty standard, but who cares? Gulager’s enthusiasm as well as an incredibly likable cast and a script that smartly plays up more humor than horror (it’s killer piranha attacking people inside a water park; it should be fun!) makes for an entertaining experience that also manages to outshine its predecessor in almost every way.

The flick is hitting theaters and VOD on June 1st, but Piranha 3DD is absolutely meant to be a big screen experience; the 3D actually adds something to the look of the movie this time around instead of hindering it (and yes, guys, the boobs are even boobier in the sequel, too!) and with Gulager keeping the overall feel delightfully campy, Piranha 3DD could very well be the most fun genre fans will have at the multiplex this summer.

4 out of 5

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