Directed by Joseph Sargent
Tagline: “This time it’s personal!”
Run Time: 89 minutes
Other Titles: "Jaws 4", "Jaws the Return"
I’m proud to say that I’m an owner of the official "Jaws" Box Set ("Jaws", "Jaws 2", "Jaws 3-D", and our feature presentation, "Jaws 4: The Revenge"). I’m equally proud to say that I bought the box set not for the first two films (like everybody else on the planet has done). Instead, I eagerly purchased the set for the second half of the quadrilogy: The schlocky "Jaws-3D", and our feature presentation, "Jaws 4: The Revenge".
Anyway, I don’t want to spend a lot of time examining the precipitous decline in quality from the superlative first "Jaws" (arguably one of the best "monster" films of all time) to what we have here in front of us with Jaws 4: a steamy plate-full of whale shit…and yes, we’re all gonna take a big bite so settle back and don’t fight it. If you’re interested in a more in-depth discussion of both the merits and shortcomings of the entire series then just Google it and read to your heart’s content. I’m more interested in this specific pile of fish guts.
I will say this though: The difference in quality from the first film to the (hopefully…please God, no more…) last in the series is so stupendous that I challenge anyone to come up with any other series of films showing such an unparalleled decline. (I admit the "Alien" series is pretty damn close but not quite as extreme of a fall as the "Jaws" films.)
Well, before diving in (ha ha, I love me), let’s take a quick rundown of the characters and cast.
Obviously, Ellen Brody is back, this time without the company of her husband, Sheriff Brody. You see, we learn that he was killed by a shark…well, not actually, you know, by a shark, but she explains that he died of "fear". (!) In other words, Roy Scheider wisely refused to have anything to do with this movie so his character was mercifully written out of the plot. (In fact, Scheider didn’t appear in Jaws 3 either. Smart man.)
Ellen is played by actress Lorraine Gary, who’s husband, Sid Sheinberg, was head of Universal Studios at the time of filming. I’m not saying her marriage to the studio boss had anything to do with her getting a leading role in the movie. But still, I’m saying. (I almost wrote "something smells fishy". Hoo hoo, I’m good.) In my opinion she just doesn’t have the on-screen power to pull off a major role, and her scenes of "grief" are downright embarrassing to sit through. To make matters worse, the story implies that there is a psychic"link" between her and the shark, which leads to not a few scenes with her staring out over the water with a "spaced-out" look on her face as she "feels" the shark’s presence. Exciting stuff, I tell ya.
And hey! Look who else has popped in: Why, none other than Michael "I’ll Take The Part" Caine. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Caine is a good actor, and it really shows compared to the other zombies, sorry, actors he appears with. OK, I know that isn’t really saying tooooo much, but there is a tangible difference to the scenes that include him…almost as if the other actors could finally relax because an old pro was on the set who know what the hell he was doing.
But really, Mr. Caine…Jaws 4?!
Ironically, Caine couldn’t make the Academy Awards Ceremony to receive an Oscar for his role in "Hannah and Her Sisters" because he was busy working on this movie. Yes, you read that correctly: Caine wasn’t able to personally accept his Oscar because he was too busy playing "Hoagie" in Jaws 4. I will give him credit for for a pretty funny quote when he was asked about this movie, “I have never seen it, but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific.”
Lance "The Last Starfighter" Guest plays eldest Brody boy, Michael. You see, after a tragic family history replete with shark fatalities Michael chooses what for a career? You guessed it: Marine biology. He’s moved from chilly New England down to the warm waters of the Caribbean to study sea snails. Yes. Sea snails. He’s also married to a welder (a female welder, mind you), so, yeah, I guess it’s your typical "sea-snail researcher / female welder" type relationship that we hear about all the time.
Moving down the list, literally, Mario Van Peebles plays Brody’s Jamaican co-researcher, Jake. Apparently Mario thought that all you had to do to sound Jamaican was add a "…ya, mon" to the end of every line. It’s really embarrassing stuff to watch. Especially when he exchanges dialog with real Jamaican extras. Mario, stay away from da Jamaican roles, ok mon? Anyway, Jake and Michael spend their days out on the waters studying and radio-tagging (!) the ever exciting snails of the Caribbean, which implies that there are a total of 2 people in the world who are actually interested in those things. (On a side note, Mario’s father and Blaxploitation pioneer, Melvin Van Peebles, has a cameo role as the town’s Mayor, which I admit, is kind of cool.)
Finally, there is the diminutive Judith Barsi who plays Michael and Carla’s daughter, Thea. Yes, the shark almost eats her. Big surprise, eh? In a truly sad note, Barsi, at the age of 10, was murdered (along with her mother) by her psychotic father in 1988. I find things like that really depressing, so if you want details just search the Internet and read to your heart’s content.
OK, let’s get this show rolling.
|Ellen Brody (Lorraine Gary)
Convinced that the Shark is out to get her family (don’t ask), Ellen goes on a one-woman rampage against the beast which nearly results in everybody getting eaten. Unfortunately, they all survive, so who knows, maybe there’s a "Jaws 5: Lower Than Whale Shit" movie in the making some day…
|Michael Brody (Lance Guest)
Michael has moved down to the Bahamas to pursue a Ph.D. in marine biology. You’d think after the life that this dude has led he wouldn’t get within 3,000 miles of water. But, oh well. I will say that Michael’s sea-snail scenes are utterly fascinating. You betcha.
|Carla Brody (Karen Young)
Michael’s lovely wife, at least when she isn’t scowling as she seems to do throughout most of the movie. Carla pursues her artistic interests as a welder while Michael studies his snails. I bet you just can’t wait to hear them flirting with each other. Hubba-hubba!
|Jake (Mario Van Peebles)
Dear Mr. Van Peebles: Just what the hell are you thinking? Mario portrays "Jake" the Island Mon, eh? Well, at least when he remembers to use his accent. Actually, his Jamaican Mon accent is so bad it should have you howling with laughter after just a few lines, and have you contemplating suicide by the end of the movie.
|Hoagie Newcombe (Michael Caine)
What? Michael Caine in a crappy movie? Oh, wait. Never mind. Anyway, Mr. Caine shows up as "Hoagie". As in the sandwich. To be fair, Caine’s appearance here is a welcome breath of fresh air compared to other actors’ thespian efforts. Now, how often can you say that?
Bigger is better. Sort of.
The opening credits are accompanied by a (shark’s?) POV shot of the bottom of the ocean. The music reaches a crescendo as ‘we’ break the surface of the water and peer at the sleepy New England town of Amity. So yes, the Shark (with a capital "S", as I’ll refer to ‘Bruce 4′) is up and bobbing on the surface, staking out the city that has has caused his fishy family so much pain. Actually the relationship between this Shark and the previous Bruces (Brucii?), is never clear. Since the tagline itself says that this time it’s "personal", I can only assume that this Shark is kin to the other sharks that the Brody clan have killed, and it’s back to get revenge (!)…whatever the concept of ‘revenge’ might be for a shark.
Fade to see a gigantic fish eye peering into the camera. Oh wait. It’s only a small fish…being fried in a frying pan. Ah, so clever. The camera pulls back to reveal…slow turn…hey! It’s Ellen Brody! who’s cooking dinner along with her youngest son, and Amity Police Deputy, Sean. (The youngest Brody boy, Sean, was played by a completely different actor in Jaws-3D. Come to think of it, so was his older brother Michael. Why the two actors from Jaws 3 (John Putch and Dennis Quaid) didn’t return to appear in Jaws 4 isn’t clear. Well, yeah, I guess it is pretty obvious: no matter how much Jaws-3D sucked, this movie sucks wayyyy more.)
Stilted familial chatter is followed by a phone call from Ellen’s grand-daughter, Thea. (Shameless exposition fills us in as to the child’s identity. "I know it’s Thea Brody," Ellen oozes into the receiver, "How many grandchildren do I have?…" Exposition 101.) We also learn that the Sean’s older brother, Michael, is a researcher down in the Bahamas. Seriously, you’d think that after a life literally filled with shark-related tragedy that these two knuckle-heads would have chosen career paths as geologists, or mountain climbers, or worm farmers, or something. But no, they both live and/or work near/in the sea despite their violent history. OK, fine. Maybe a man has to "face his fears", but sometimes you also have to "face the music" and get the hell away from the freakin’ water…dig?
Anyway, all is well and good as the family heads out to the town Christmas party: everybody drinking egg nog, giving each other hugs, singing "tra-la-la", that kind of shit. Sean decides to swing into the police station to "check in", which is something I thought was done with radios, but whatever.
Cutting to the police office interior, we immediately spot a large portrait of the late Sheriff Brody, which in the context of this film, is a slap to the face. I can understand that the town probably regards Brody as a hero (he did save the inhabitants from a giant shark…twice!), but still, it just reminds me of how much I’d rather be watching the first "Jaws" instead of this swill. (I can almost hear Roy Scheider’s ethereal voice saying…"you bastards…I turned down the role, so you hang up my picture to spite me…")
Yadda, yadda. Sean "checks in", and Just As He Is Leaving, the phone rings. The police secretary, Polly, takes the phone and shouts that "an old dock pile" has been reported floating into the channel and may cause problems when the late-night fishing boats return with their catch. Don’t you just hate when that happens?
Well, as luck would have it, the Coast Guard is "busy" (?!). Sean whines a bit, and suggests that Deputy Lenny take care of it. But no, he’s out catching "cow tippers" (!).
First of all…catching "cow tippers"…I mean, I know Amity is a small town, but isn’t there anything better for the police to do. Second, would somebody really raise cattle…on a New England island?
To make a long story short, and to move the plot along, Sean relents and agrees to skipper the local police boat and putt-putt out into the bay to remove the obstacle.
Sean quickly arrives at the aforementioned obstacle, which is stuck in a buoy. Sean switches on the boat’s spotlight, and illuminates the offending log somehow wedged under the buoy and sticking up a few feet out of the water. (I’m guessing that Sean’s impending death at the buoy was meant to be a nod to the first victim in the original "Jaws"…crap, forgot her name, but she was the young woman that swam out to the buoy and was eaten. Anyway, Mr. Film Maker, enough of the references to the first movie…you’re really not doing yourself any favors by reminding us of it.)
As Sean pulls up to the buoy and begins to free the log, we hear, surprise!, the Jaw’s theme music, (or a facsimile thereof). Furthermore, we see a shark’s-eye-view of Sean from the water line…which means that Sean doesn’t see a 40-foot great white shark laying on it’s side on the surface (!) of the water watching him…which would be the only position a shark could watch somebody since its eyes are on the sides of its head. In fact, since sharks must swim at all times (to keep oxygen moving over their gills), the whole POV shot is just plain ridiculous. Oh, and since I’m on a roll, allow me to ask how the Shark knew that Sean was going to show up? In other words, how did it know that it would be him that would come out and investigate the buoy instead of, say, Officer Lenny? This is all assuming that we’re willing to believe a shark could actually rig up a trap in order to lure a particular victim out onto the water! (Note From the Future: This is in fact what the Shark did do: it employed the log as bait in order to lure Sean out to his death!)
This movie is just so wrong on so many levels…and it just started…<sigh>.
Anyway, the Shark launches itself out of the water and bites of Sean’s arm. In a display of seamless editing, we plainly see that the shark’s mouth and surrounding water is full of blood before Sean is bitten. Who knows, maybe the Shark cut himself shaving.
Yes, oh bitter irony, back on shore the local school choir is rehearsing their Christmas carols so loudly that nobody can hear Sean’s screams for help. Boy, it really makes you think, huh?
The attack continues in a montage of jump cuts, strange sounds of cloth ripping (!) foleyed onto the audio track, and lots of blood. Somehow, the Shark bites off the rear corner of the boat and Sean tumbles into the water, even though he was plainly shown sitting against the front part of the boat a moment before. (As you may have noticed, my grasp of nautical terminology is…how shall I say…crap. Port, Starboard, aft, stern, ack.)
Well, scratch Sean. After he disappears under the surface of the water for the last time, we see the log that was stuck under the buoy come floating to the surface. Strangely, the log is scratched up with what can only be interpreted as teeth marks, which, in my twisted eyes, indicates that that Shark must have consciously manipulated the log into place in order to lure Sean out to his doom. (Don’t think about that too much. It will make your head hurt.)
Do you hate this movie yet?
Yes, well, the next day (I think), Michael and his family, wife Carla (occupation: welder/artist), and daughter Thea (occupation: diminutive cutesy kid used to heighten tension in a "I Wonder If The Shark Is Gonna Get Her" scene later in the film), fly from the Bahamas up to Amity in order to console his grieving mother, Ellen.
As Michael enters his mother’s somber home, he is greeted by police secretary Polly (what is she doing there?). To my great surprise, look who else is in attendance: Mrs. Kintner (!!). (If you recall, she is the mother of the boy who went out into the water on a yellow floating thing and was gobbled up in the first Jaws film.) Wow. That’s quite a reception. Anyway, Ellen is standing outside, alone, by the water’s edge staring off into space and playing the Grieving Mother for all its worth.
"It came for him…it waited all this time…and it came for him," Ellen murmurs as Michael embraces her. Michael tries to look concerned, but the thespian effort was apparently too much for him, and instead emotes only a sense of vapid embarrassment. (I do agree that everybody who had anything to do with this movie should be embarrassed.)
Later that night Ellen prepares dinner for her guests and has a huge conniption fit. You see, she wants Michael to "get out of the water", because you see, he’s a sea snail researcher which requires him to, you know, be in the water, and, well, the whole Shark thing and all. Needless to say, Michael is a bit reluctant to give up a promising career in sea snails, especially since he just got his first grant. (A grant?! From who?) Michael pleads with his mother to get a grip, and despite his sympathy for her, shouts that she can’t really believe in all that "Voodoo" about killer sharks.
A little side note here: this film’s novelization "explains" (if you can call it that) the whole "Shark out to get the Brody’s" by noting that Michael insulted a Voodoo priest (!!) who in turn cursed the Brody family. My God, how I wished they would have added that to the film, I mean, to watch a sea-snail researcher get into a shouting match with a Voodoo priest…One can only imagine what a deliciously awful scene that would have been.
Anyway, Ellen insists that the Shark that recently killed Sean also killed their father.
"Dad died of a heart attack," Michael trenchantly reminds her.
"He died of fear!…the fear of it killed him!" Ellen gibbers.
(Now what in the hell would the coroner put down on the death certificate for that?…Fatal heart attack caused by fear of being devoured by a Voodoo shark?)
Yadda, yadda, the next day Michael and Carla are strolling along the beach while he recalls the good times that he and Sean had together. For no apparent reason Michael suddenly springs from Carla’s side and runs along the beach in a display of raw emotion.
Either that or he’s a psycho.
Either way, the ‘powerful’, yet whimsical, soundtrack reaches a crescendo in order to verify that this is a Significant Moment. Just in case you were confused.
Look, ma, I’m emoting.
Fade to Sean’s funeral, complete with a somber crowd of Grieving Friends and Family. Ellen struggles to control her grief as she recalls the joy that her son Sean brought into her life. These recollections take the form of sepia-tinted shots (because, you know, the past is always sepia colored) from the original Jaws movie. Unfortunately, the flashback is from an angle that she couldn’t have seen! Namely, the scene from the first film where the young Sean is mimicking Sheriff Brody in the family dining room. Granted Ellen was in the kitchen and saw them playing together, but the flashback is from the viewer’s angle, not hers, and well, oh never mind. You get the point.
Well, ok. If this movie is ever going to get anywhere, the plot obviously requires Ellen to travel to the Bahamas so she can be menaced by the Shark. However, since Ellen is so vehemently against being anywhere near the water (I totally agree with her), you would suspect that the plot will come to a dead end, Michael and Co. will return home without Ellen, the credits will roll, and we can toss this DVD into the garbage. Unfortunately, the writers came up with the brilliant solution of simply having Ellen change her mind:
"Why don’t you come down to the islands with us?" Michael suggests.
"I couldn’t do that…"
"You wanna know what I think," Carla adds, "I think it’s a wonderful idea."
"Yes!" little Thea shouts.
"You should get away, you shouldn’t be alone now."
"YES!" Ellen agrees.
(Oh, brother! Dennis says while rolling his eyes.)
Wow. That was easy.
And the story grinds on.
(Cut! Cut! Carla, try to look more pleased…Oh, never mind. Cut and print.)
The Brody’s wind up taking a local ferry to the mainland where they will presumably catch a flight to the Bahamas. Ellen has a bit of a breakdown and starts crying and carrying on reminding us once again why this actress wasn’t given the lead role in any of the other films.
Anyway, we cut from the grieving Ellen to a close up of the log washed up on the beach. Why…hey! It’s the very same log that Sean was trying to remove when he was gobbled down. (Pathos!) In fact, this damn log has been given nearly as many scenes as Ellen Brody, so, in deference to the important role this piece of wood has played in this film, I give to you…The Log:
Ladies and gentlemen…The Log.
Cut from…The Log…to see a quiet Brody family flying in a small plane over the crystal clear waters of the Bahamas. Well, we cut to a stock-footage plane for the exterior shots, which of course don’t match the interior shots of the plane in neither its size nor its altitude, but hey, why be picky at this point? (Ok, I guess I’m obligated to point out that a couple of the stock-footage shots actually show different times of day and different weather…)
Thea gets restless and asks the pilot where the stewardess is. (Mirth!) The pilot, Hoagie (!), played by Michael Caine, invites little Thea up into the cockpit for a little demonstration of how to fly the plane.
"You push the stick this way and the houses get bigger…", Hoagie says with a grin as the plane steeply dives towards a residential area. (Er, maybe the Bahamas doesn’t fall directly under the FAA’s supervision, but I must wonder of is this sort of thing allowed…)
Anyhoo, a quick cab ride from the airport deposits everybody at Michael’s humble abode. Young Thea immediately rushes out of the cab and onto a small dock where some local youths are swinging from ropes out over the water. Even though the water is less than a foot deep, Ellen throws a fit and demands that Thea immediately get away from the water. Thea refuses as Ellen continues insisting that she return to the beach. So gee, the tension is killing me: Will the Shark eat little Thea a mere 15 minutes into the film? To my great relief, Carla defuses the situation by stomping out onto the dock and dragging Thea back to land, explaining that she can’t play by the water today because of crazy grandma Ellen. (Ok, I added that last part.)
Michael decides to show his jittery mother around his home. First stop is Carla’s outdoor metal shop where she creates her objets d’art by welding together pieces of scrap metal. Michael throws open the workshop’s double-doors and reveals Carla’s latest masterpiece, "Tourist On the Loose". Michael elaborates by saying that the local government funded the work, and it is to be donated to the "public beach" (oh, THE public beach) in a formal unveiling ceremony in a couple of weeks.
As Ellen watches from the door, Michael strolls around to the back side of the rusty sculpture where, from Ellen’s point of view, he’s framed by the sculpture as if he were inside a…oh my God: A shark’s mouth! (Portension!)
Later that day we see Ellen out swimming in the ocean.
"Wait! She’s afraid of the water, right? What’s going on here?" You may rightfully ask.
Before you can bat an eye and say "Jimminy-cricket what a crappy movie", Ellen is viciously attacked by a shark. Blood fills the water as we see the same dizzying jump-cut montage of indiscernible teeth/shark/bloody water that was used when Sean was killed. In fact, thanks to the magic of DVD freeze frame, it’s easy to see that the rapid succession of shots showing the shark are taken directly from the earlier scenes when Sean was attacked, i.e., the shark is shown at night even though Ellen is swimming in broad daylight.
Anyway, the Shark eats Ellen and the movie ends.
Oh wait. It was a dream. Boy, what an original plot device that was. Wow!
Yes, we jump cut and see Ellen heave herself up in bed, gasping from breathe at this horrible nightmare. Which, unfortunately, means that the movie will continue.
The next day Michael is back at work, piloting a yellow mini-sub looking for, yes, sea snails.
Sensitive readers may find the next picture overwhelming due to the graphic depiction of sea snails. So, please, if you have a weak heart, or are sensitive to seeing live mollusks in the wild, please skip over the next image.
Another exciting scene from "Jaws 4: The Revenge"
At this point in the film the most horrifying event to ever be shown on a movie screen now takes place: Mario Van Peebles attempting to speak with a Jamaican accent.
Imagine this: Your watching a flock of motionless sea snails accompanied by Mario Van Peebles’ voice saying "Come on…’urry up, mon!" Yes, Michael’s research partner, Jake, is ragging on Michael to "get a move on…what the hell are you doing down there?" Jake continues his harangue: "C’mon…move your oss, mon!" (It’s now official: I hate this movie.)
Now dis is a crappy movie, mon!
As it turns out, Michael is sexing the snails by turning them over and peering into their shells. Now, I’m not a marine biologist, but, really, is that how you sex a sea snail? What, are the females wearing skirts in there? In an unintentional hilarious bit, Michael is also radio-tagging (!) the snails.
See what I’m getting at?
Yeah, those buggers can move like greased lightning when their startled,. Wouldn’t want to lose track of a herd of snails. They must have a range of, what, 1 inch a week? Wouldn’t want to lose track of ‘em. No sirree.
Anyway, Michael informs Jake that the females have laid eggs…or whatever the hell snails do with them. "Oh great," Jake replies, "I guess we’re gonna start handing out cigars then, eh?" Hoo Hoo. Now dat was funny, mon!
The friendly banter continues as Michael emerges from the water and clambers up onto the boat. "Your readings suck, mon!" Jake greets him. (Huh?) Yes, Jake made the radio collars (!) for the snails, but Michael put them on wrong, or…you know what? Who gives a shit. And really, radio collars for…snails?
The argument escalates and now we finally get to the source of the friction between the two friends: Jake is pissed because Michael recently took time off to travel to New England, now they have to work on Christmas Eve to make up for lost time.
Ok, time out.
1) Jake’s angry because Michael took time off to go to his brother’s funeral?
2) I’m supposed to believe that the demand for sea snail research is so pressing that they have to work Christmas Eve to get it done? Is there some hidden demand for sea snails that I’m unaware of?
Jake finally calms down, apologizes for his outburst, and offers his condolences to Michael regarding his recently devoured brother. A playful manly tussle ensues resulting in Jake lifting Michael up in a fireman’s carry, spinning him around, and teasingly shouting, "I missed you, mon!" (Dear lord…kill me now, mon…)
Later that evening, Jake and his wife, Louisa, are spending Christmas Eve at the Brody’s place. As luck would have it, Thea unwittingly brings up the "S" word, i.e., Sean, and an uncomfortable silence fills the room. Ellen manages to keep her composure but quickly walks out onto the porch to pull herself together. As Michael goes out to talk with her, Louisa and Jake begin singing a Christmas carol in an effort to revive the once festive mood. In a magnificent display of directorial subtlety, the carol they choose is the exact same one that the carolers were singing when Sean was eaten by the shark. Wow. It makes you think, huh?
(Well, I’m pretty sure it’s the same one, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was given the schlock-level of this movie. Oh, and no, I’m not going back to re-watch the scene when Sean gets eaten to find out.)
As Michael tries to comfort Ellen and reassure her that he’s perfectly safe doing what he does ("Mom…Jake and I are scientists…we know what we’re doing!"), we cut to see the Shark swimming through the ocean.
Now let’s take a pause and examine this. The movie revolves around the fact that the Shark has followed the Brody’s from New England to the Bahamas. Let’s see how this might be possible:
The Shark found out that the Brody’s were planning on going somewhere, so it figured out which flight they were on and where it was going. Using it’s keen sense of navigation, the Shark swam from New England to the Bahamas in the space of 48 hours. Upon reaching the Bahamas, the Shark determined which island the Brody’s were on, and in fact, found out exactly where Michael was working.
Naaaah. That’s not too far fetched.
Oh, and let’s also pause and notice that we are getting our first good look at the film’s titular menace…and it looks, not to put too fine of a point on it, like shit. In this initial quick shot of the Shark where it quickly swims past the camera (with a growling (!!) sound foleyed onto the sound track) it’s easy to spot the seams along the sides of the beast where its hide was stitched together. OK, I’ll be fair. I’m sure it’s not an easy task to build a robotic shark. Still, these guys got paid good money to do this, and we can still see the seams?!
Cut to the beach where Ellen is playing with Thea at the water’s edge. Suddenly Ellen gets a Bad Feeling and jumps up to stare out over the water as we hear that weird ‘growling’ noise again. (By the way, to all you out there that aren’t marine biologists: sharks do not growl.) This shot can only imply that there is some sort of, and I can’t believe I’m typing this, but there is some sort of ‘psychic connection’ between Ellen and the Shark. In the novelization of the film, as I mentioned before, it is hinted that there is some sort of Voodoo curse that compels the Shark to track down the Brodys, and may (somewhat) explain the ‘link’ between Ellen and the beast. In the film, nobody bothers offering any type of explanation, no matter how thin, for this ‘connection’, so the link between the Ellen and the Shark comes off as simply bizarre.
Anyway, as Ellen and Thea build a sand castle (Altogether now: ‘Awwwwwww…’), out of the blue arrives Hoagie in his row boat. You see, he was out fishing, but instead decided to pop in and say hello to Ellen, oh, and to go through the motions of a meet-cute scene. This budding relationship perfunctorily established between Hoagie and Ellen, the pair stroll along the beach and discuss Ellen’s growing sense of unease. The excitement mounts as…oh hell, this is terribly boring. Look. Hoagie tells Ellen to go with her feelings, and Ellen comes across more or less as a psycho as she explains that she "knew [the shark] came for Sean" and know she knows it’s coming for Michael as well.
Meanwhile, Jake and Michael are out on their research boat doing…research, I suppose. Another insightful dialog exchange takes place as they discuss ways to get more funding since they are due to run out of money in a couple of months. Jake suggests going to the Office of Naval Research for money, but Michael refuses on moral grounds since they "put bombs on dolphins." (!) Up on deck Michael picks up a pair of binoculars and spots his mother and Hoagie strolling down the beach. A suspicious looks clouds his face (sort of), as he espies his emotionally vulnerable mother hand-in-hand with this potential suitor. (I must point out that the film’s novelization portrays Hoagie as a small-time drug dealer, and generally a much ‘darker’ character than the bubbly Hoagie portrayed by Michael Caine. However, this side of Hoagie’s character is never touched upon here.)
Whimsy ensues as we cut to see Hoagie and Ellen flying around the islands in his plane. Hoagie playfully takes his hands from the controls and insists that Ellen take them and ‘save’ the plane. Ho ho.
You know what? Isn’t there supposed to be a shark in this movie? I’m sorry, it’s just that it’s been about 30 minutes since I last (sort of) saw a shark attack, so forgive me if I’m a little confused.
Ah yes, we cut back to Jake and Michael out with the snails. Actually it appears to be Jake’s turn to wrangle the buggers as he’s down in the mini-sub while Michael is topside. The two friends exchange even more Witty Banter ©, as Jake suddenly notices a gigantic shark swimming along side the sub.
(The best things about this shot is it allows the quick-fingered viewer an opportunity to pause the DVD player and relish the god-awful quality of the shark model. The foam is especially evident around the patently plastic eye as you can easily see where chunks of the foam exterior have rubbed off around the "eye socket".)
The ever-jovial Jake mentions over the radio that there’s a "big fish" down there. (Wow, nothing rattles an Island Mon, eh?)
"How big?" Michael asks, just as the shark breaches the surface and begins to chomp on the side of the boat.
Yeah, you know how sharks just surface, latch onto the side of a boat, and chew, right?
Anyway, having made his point, the shark submerges in a cloud of blood (??!!) and swims away.
Meanwhile, Hoagie has escorted Ellen to a local festival as some sort of mini-date in order to get her mind off the whole gigantic Voodoo Shark thingee. As they’re walking through a crowd of revelers, Ellen is struck by a horrible feeling that something is wrong, because, you know, she’s linked to the Shark, dig? Hoagie, tries to convince her to "let it go" and get on with her life, so Ellen pretends to shake it off and starts dancing and and asking for drinks in near hysteria.
Sharks do this all the time.
Cut back to the boat. When Jake re-emerges from the water he’s ecstatic because they finally have subject matter worth studying. Michael, on the other hand, is naturally taken aback by the attack and quietly asks Jake not to mention their encounter with the boat-sized great white shark to his family (!!!). Fair enough, it surely would upset his mom and wife, but, hey, you think the others just maybe kinda might want to know there’s an immense Voodoo Shark in the water in case they decide to go swimming? Not even to mention that his own daughter goes swimming every day…and…and…oh brother. (Dennis rolls eyes and sighs.)
Later that night, Hoagie returns with Ellen from their evening together. Michael stands sullenly beside his bedroom window and peers through the curtains as Hoagie drops Ellen off at the door. Now here’s another aspect of the movie that pisses me off: they play up this whole Michael-vs-Hoagie jealously angle for some reason, and then just let it peter out later on in the film. I suspect this sub-plot played a larger role in the story at some point, but the writers seem to have just ran out of steam and dropped the whole thing.
Anyway, Carla, laying in bed reading a book, notices her angst-filled hubby staring out the window and playfully pulls off her panties and snaps them across the room and into his chest like a big rubber band. I know this was meant to be titillating, and I’m far from a prude, but it comes across as rather gross. Wow, ok, I guess I got off on kind of a tangent with this whole panty-flinging episode.
The next night (?) is New Years Eve. How does everybody decide to celebrate? Why going downtown to a huge casino which is packed with white people even though it’s supposedly in the Bahamas. Go figure.
Why…who else happens to be there…Hoagie. Tra la la la la la. What a surprise. Boy, it’s a small island, eh? OK, humor ensues as he rolls the dice and…loses a shit-pile of money on the craps table. "Is that bad?" Ellen asks as the dice comes up snake-eyes. "Depends on how you look at it," Hoagie responds with a smile. (Uhh, ok.)
Hoagie joins Ellen and the others at their table. It’s now revealed that their actually celebrating Jake’s girlfriend’s birthday. (I forgot her name.) I’m not sure if it’s New Years Eve as well, but since everybody in the place seems to be wearing party hats, I’ll assume so. OK, yes, it is New Year’s Eve, and…screw it. This movie is a mess. Let it suffice to say that everybody is hanging out, having a few drinks, and celebrating some damn thing.
Jake, in a moment of forgetfulness, almost lets the cat out of the bag by mentioning the earlier run in with the Shark. "You promised not to talk about work," Ellen jokingly murmurs, not realizing how crucial that info would have been if she’d let him finish. (Irony!)
"Yeah, you’re right," Jake gracefully recovers as Michael stares daggers at him. Hoagie takes advantage of this awkward pause in conversation to ask Ellen for a dance. She naturally accepts and scampers off to the dance floor as Michael stares at them. Ok, great, here comes this whole stupid jealously subplot again, so we’ll just skip over it. To make a long story short, Michael cuts in and has a few words with his mother. Ellen assures Michael that she’s more or less recovered from Sean’s death, at least to the degree that she’s ready to get back on with her life. Well, yes, it has been nearly 3 whole weeks since your youngest child was devoured by a shark, so, hey, no point in living in the past.
The next day we see Michael on the dock walking out to his research boat. Once onboard, Michael discovers Jake busily wiring up a transmitter that he plans on fastening to the Shark. (Just how he’s going to do this is not explained.) When Jake mentions that he wants to drop the whole sea snail research project and focus on the shark instead, Michael throws a tizzy fit because, you know, there’s still 3 months of research remaining, and he doesn’t want to sign his name to a "half-assed report". Yes, turning in a half-assed sea snail report is something that will scar a career for ever. After a long, boring verbal sparring match, Michael relents and agrees to put the snail project on hold and study the shark for a few days. Ahh, the seemingly meaningless everyday decisions that shape our lives, eh?
Back home, we see Michael and Carla having an argument over why he forgot to take out the garbage. (Hilariously, we see them lugging 4 huge garbage bags out to the trash. I mean, just how much freakin’ garbage can a single-child family produce?!) You see, Michael is a bit stressed out because of the whole "Not Telling My Family About A Gigantic Voodoo Shark" thing that he’s got going on inside his head. Carla is also stressed out because of the upcoming ceremony to dedicate her latest piece of junk, sorry, art. And really, who hasn’t been in their shoes?
So, yes, Carla asks Michael what’s been eating him lately. (Pun intended.) Now, I’m thinking that this is a great time to say, "Honey, you remember that killer Shark that ate my brother? Well, gee whiz, I guess mom was right, because it swam from New England to the Bahamas to eat me…and golly, if the darn thing didn’t almost eat my boat the other day. Oh, and, you might want to keep our daughter out of the water, and, uh, yeah, maybe I should mention this to the authorities."
But he doesn’t.
Michael dodges the question and the argument peters out. As Carla lights up her welding iron (I’m sure ‘welding iron’ isn’t right, but I can’t remember what the heck are those things are called…) Michael gives her a suave look and purrs, "I’ve always wanted to make love to an angry welder…It’s been my dream ever since I was a boy." (Again, I know this was meant to be funny, but man, it just creeps me out.) Carla, turns off the welding-iron-thingee, grins, and says, "Close the door," to which Michael replies, "Later…" (?) So yes, a little make-up sex in a welder’s workshop appears to be just the ticket for Michael. (I’m getting kinda worried about that guy.)
After that romantic moment we cut to see Jake, Michael, and a couple hired hands out on the research barge tossing chum into the water.
I can honestly say that everytime I see somebody chumming water in a shark movie…well…things never really turn out very well.
To add to my growing sense of unease, we now discover Jake’s plan to attach the tracking device to the Shark:
1) Chum is tossed into the water and a huge hunk of raw meat is dangled over the edge of the boat.
2) Jake wears a harness with a rope attached to the back that Michael holds onto. (!)
3) Jake will shimmy out and lean over the water with a long stick that has the tracking device attached to the end.
4) Jake will stick the tracking device into the shark.
"You’ve done this before?", asks an understandably nervous Michael.
"Trust Uncle Jake," is the reply.
Not a well thought out plan.
OK, to make a long story short, the Shark shows up, swallows the steak and Jake (barely) manages to stick the transmitter into the beast’s side. Flush with success, Jake yells for Michael to pull him back onto the boat (!) and the 2 scientists rush inside to see if the transmitter is actually working.
Cut to Hoagie and Ellen, strolling once again through a local town. They order a couple of drinks, and…and…man. I hate this movie. I’m sick of watching Hoagie make goo-goo eyes at Ellen, and, oh cripes. He kisses her after flirting for a bit. Couldn’t we just watch the Shark eat somebody instead?
Meanwhile, Jake and Michael are trying to track the Shark on an oscilloscope. Sorry, a high-tech radar receiver. After a few tense moments (not), a low thumping noise comes out over the receiver’s loudspeakers. I assume that we are to believe that this is the Shark’s heartbeat, but it sounds more like somebody playing a game of Pong on an old Atari 2600.
Anyway, they lose the signal. "Alright, mister fish, we’ll come back and find you tomorrow…," Jake says as they turn to make their way back to land.
Cut to see the Shark swimming past the camera. Incidentally, this is a bad idea because it gives us yet another good look at the crappy Shark. Oh, dear. What’s that I spy along the dorsal fin? Why it’s a seam. How lovely.
Hey, guys, nice seam.
Cut to see Carla and Ellen having a little girl-talk regarding Ellen’s blossoming relationship with Hoagie. OK. I’ll be honest here. If you really give a shit about how enthralled Ellen is that Hoagie kissed her, then email me and I’ll send you the details of their conversation.
Suddenly, we jump cut to see the Shark leaping from the water, covered in blood, and chomping at something. Oh, but wait. Michael was having a dream. (Two shark-attack-dream-sequences? Really, guys…is your collective imagination exhausted already?) Carla snuggles up and asks him what’s wrong. He says it was just a stupid dream instead of, you know, TELLING HER ABOUT THE KILLER SHARK, and goes back to sleep.
The next night we see Michael and little Thea in the kitchen. Michael sits deep in thought, twiddling with a pencil as Thea silently observes. Oh gee, how sweet. She begins twiddling her pencil in an affectionate imitation of her father. Boy, that’s so swee…holy shit! Wait a minute! That’s just what Sheriff Brody and Sean did in the first Jaws. Mein Gott! Had the these film makers no shame?! (It’s also funny how, once again, Ellen recalls these events in sepia-toned memories, and from angles that correspond to positions that she was never standing at.) I know that this scene is supposed to be "touching", but all it really does is remind us of the far superior first movie.
This charming interlude is interrupted by another jump cut to the next day where Michael is out in the ocean tagging snails. Jake, safely aboard the research ship, monitors the receiver for any sign of the Shark’s approach, this way he can warn Michael in time for him to haul ass back to the surface.
Yeah. That’s going to work.
Sure enough, the receiver picks up the Shark’s weird ‘Pong’-sounding heart beat and Jake raises the alarm. Michael swims back to the mini-sub, begins to surface, and Out Of Nowhere the Shark attacks the sub. (Well, not really ‘attacks': Some off-camera divers have propelled the inanimate mock-up into the side of the sub.)
Actually if you freeze-frame at the correct moment, you can plainly see the mechanical arm that is pushing the shark against the sub. Man, I wasn’t even wearing my glasses and I spotted that one.
OK, come on. Did anybody even bother to edit this movie?
Anyhoo, Michael wriggles free of the sub and swims (!) away. The Shark growls (!!!) and gives chase.
I repeat: The Shark growls!
OK, well, Michael manages to out-swim the Shark, at least for a few hundred feet, and hides inside a sunken ship. You know the kind…the sunken ships that seem to litter the bottom of the sea providing convenient hiding places.
Inside the ship Michael swims through the narrow corridors in an attempt to…do something. Sure enough, we cut to see that the Shark is also swimming through the ship (!). Now, really. This is about as stupid as it gets: The Shark, which is what, 30 feet long, is chasing Michael through a sunken ship…oh dear. Michael gets cornered, the Shark is about to bite him, and, well I hope you’re sitting down because I don’t want the shock to floor you, but he manages to open a hatchway and get away…JUST IN TIME!
Well, you can run but you can’t hide, because the Shark has somehow gotten back outside the ship. This of course implies that the Shark swam backwards (!!) through the same corridors it came in. Hmmmm. The things I’ve learned about shark behavior today. Anyway, the Shark batters a hole through the hull of the craft and ALMOST BITES MICHAEL AGAIN!. Realizing that he had better get the hell out of there, Michael removes his aqualung, knocks off the regulator-thingee from the top of the tank, and jets up to the surface of the water like a rocket. Yes, he shoots straight up, and surfaces exactly beside the research boat which allows Jake to quickly pull him from the water. MAN! WILL THE EXCITEMENT EVER STOP?!
Later that night we see Michael restlessly laying in bed beside his snoozing wife. As he rolls over we spot a nasty, bloody bandage on his upper arm, so I guess he was wounded in the attack even though it’s not clear when. I’m not sure how he explained that to Carla. Maybe he blamed it on one of the sea snails. Those bastards can be dangerous when startled.
Ooookay. The next day Michael is back out on the research platform and is preparing to dive back down. "When you fall off a horse, you have to get back on and ride it," is his explanation when Jake tries to convince him that maybe he should wait since, you know, he was almost eaten by a gargantuan shark the day before. Oh. It’s the big day of Carla’s art dedication, so, yeah, maybe Michael would want to attend that too. But no. He’s going to tag some snails first, because, as he says so eloquently, "I’m scared shitless. If I can’t get back in that water, what am I gonna do?"
Underwater Michael swims along the bottom looking for snails and is shocked by the old "Spring Loaded Moray Eel Gag". Boy. That’s always a shocker. Hoo hoo.
Meanwhile, the art dedication is in full swing. The local Mayor, played by Mario Van Peebles (!) in a cool cameo role, reads his speech while Carla and Jake’s girlfriend (damn…what was her name?!) impatiently wait for Michael and Jake’s arrival. Little Thea, also in attendance, is naturally restless and asks if she can go out onto the water and ride on a "Banana Boat". (A banana boat is a canoe like rig shaped like, yes, a banana. About 5 or 6 kids sit on top as a boat slowly pulls it around in the shallow water.)
Hmmm. Thea. Water. Shark movie. This can’t be good.
As Carla steps up to say a few words, Ellen gets that weird "I Think A Shark Is Going To Eat A Family Member" feeling and steps out of the crowd and nervously watches the beach.
Once again, not to shock the hell out of you, the Shark shows up, chases the banana boat, and rather gruesomely chomps the girl sitting just behind Thea.
("Somebody do something!" shrieks Jake’s girlfriend. Gee, you think?)
As Thea and the other kids are safely returned to the beach, Ellen senses that there’s only 20 minutes left of run-time and decides to take matters into her own hands. With a stern look on her face, she stomps away from the chaos, runs over to Michael’s research boat, and motors off out into the sea to do battle with the Shark. Somehow. And really. What is her plan here? (And if she takes the boat which was tied to the dock, then how did Jake and Michael get out to the research barge?)
Later that day Michael returns home to find Thea curled up on Carla’s lap in shock. Michael finally spills the beans that he knew about the Shark, and Carla is understandably is a little upset about all this. (Really, I’m wondering if Michael’s silence about the Shark borders on criminal negligence. I mean, doesn’t he have some sort of legal, not to mention moral, obligation to bring this up?)
What an idiot.
Well, before Carla can rip him a new one, he notices that his mother has taken his ship to do battle. A quick shout to Jake in the neighboring bungalow, and the two heroes are off to look for her and to save the day.
While sputtering around in a tiny motor boat they happen to run into Hoagie. "The Shark attacked Thea and some kids…she went afta da damn ting!" Jake shouts in his patently bogus accent. Hoagie suggests that they hop into his airplane and use that to scan the sea for Ellen.
Ah, yes, of course: turning the boats around, docking them up, meeting at Hoagies place, driving out to the airport, filing a flight plan, fueling the airplane, and getting clearance from the tower would be much quicker.
OK. Now the movie gets really stupid.
The Shark spots Ellen in the boat, Ellen spots the Shark, and Hoagie, Mike, and Jake spot the Shark and Ellen, all pretty much at about the same time.
Ellen stops the boat’s engines, stands tall, faces the Shark and grumbles, "Come and get me, you son of a bitch!" So, I assume her plan is to sacrifice herself? Or what? That’s noble and all, but wouldn’t a better plan be to move the family to Colorado? Or how about any other place that is a thousand miles from the sea?
Anyhoo, as the Shark literally leaps from the water to take a snap at Ellen, Hoagie dives the plane down and almost hits the damn thing with one of the wings. Hoagie’s suicidal maneuver does however drive the Shark back into the water long enough for Hoagie to fly the craft around for another pass.
No. Scratch that. Hoagie is going to land the airplane in the water, so the three of them can swim over to help Ellen on the boat. (!)
I officially hate this movie.
"Get out of here," Hoagie shouts to Michael and Jake as the plane slides to a stop just beside the boat, "I’ll keep it busy!" (I’m not sure how you keep a shark "busy", but there you have it.)
"No!" Jake warns Hoagie, "It will come to da plane! It’s attracted to da electro-magnetic impulse of da metal on it!"
The electro-magnetic impulse? Oooookay.
Unbelievably, Michael and Jake dive into the sea (!) and swim (!!) the 30 or so feet from the sinking plane to the boat. The Shark, of course, behaves itself and doesn’t gobble them up, because, you know, that would end the movie. Maybe it was all the electro-magnetic impulses from the metal on the plane that kept it at bay long enough for them to swim over. Who knows.
Just as Michael and Jake reach the boat and clamber aboard, the Shark propels itself up from the water and onto the wing of the sinking plane, almost taking Hoagie into its gullet.
"Holy SHIT!" Hoagie shouts as he jumps back into the cockpit. (Yeah, you think?)
Anyway, the weight of the Shark drags the plane under the waves and Hoagie dies a horrible death. (Yeah. Sure he does.)
Seeing her boyfriend sink under the water with a giant Voodoo Shark chomping at him sends Ellen into hysterics.
"Why did you bring him out here?" she sobs.
"Why did you take the boat?" Michael replies as he holds her to his chest.
"There was nothing else to do!"
Um, there was nothing else to do? See my notes on moving to Colorado.
Just when you think the movie couldn’t get any more idiotic, Hoagie suddenly appears by pulling himself up into the boat.
"How did you do that?" Jake asks as he and Michael pull him aboard.
"It wasn’t easy," comes the reply.
Boy, that Hoagie. Nothing ruffles his feathers.
What Hoagie also doesn’t explain is how he managed to swim to the boat while keeping his clothes completely dry. Man. That’s weird Huh. Who woulda thunk it.
Well, the amazing Water Proof Hoagie, catches his breathe as Ellen rushes over to his side to embrace him. "My God," he gasps, "The breath on that thing!" (I hope he’s referring to the Shark and not Ellen…)
With Hoagie safely on board, dry clothes, dry hair, and all, they wisely decide to skidaddle out of there. Since this is a stupid movie, however, the engine compartment has mysteriously filled with water thus making it impossible to start the motors until the water is manually pumped out. While Ellen and Hoagie start pumping out the bilge (so to speak), Jake rushes down below to rig up something he just thought up.
As the Shark circles the boat for another go, Jake and Michael frantically rig together, and I swear, a strobe light with an antennae stuck to it. Jake plans on tossing the thingamajig down the Shark’s gullet and…
"Ohhh…I got it! I got it!" Michael says with a grin, "We rig an antennae on this and we have a slave unit that will shock the hell out of it!"
"Right!" shouts Jake.
"This is all theory though," Jake adds breathlessly, "If it responds to external electrical impulse, it might respond to one coming from inside it: Confuse him and drive him crazy."
There you have it folks, Jake’s plan: Drive the shark crazy.
(Don’t worry, I think it will work…Jake’s accent drove me crazy about 90 minutes ago.)
For some reason, the Pong-heart-beat thingee stops making Pong noises. "Maybe it had a heart attack," Hoagie jests, "Too much food. Humans are full of cholesterol." (I had to laugh when I thought about what Ellen must have thought of that wise crack, what with Sean and all…)
La-dee-da. Hoagie gets the motors started and they turn towards land. Jake in the meantime has shimmied out onto the bow with the flash-light drive-a-shark-crazy thing in his hand.
Now, really, this can’t be a good idea.
Note to self: This is NOT a good idea.
Big surprise here. Jake shoves the doohickey into the Shark’s maw, the Shark grabs Jake in its mouth and drags him down into the water…and yes, there is a slow-motion close-up of Ellen shouting "Noooooooooooooooooooo!"
Special Bonus Shot: A slow-motion close-up of Michael shouting "Jaaaaaaaaaaaaake!"
Michael steels himself for the final battle and pulls out the other Shocker-Doo-Dad that’s going to set off the Shark-Insanity-Maker that’s presumably stuck in the Shark’s gut. For some reason Ellen has a flashback to the time she saw Sean getting eaten by the Shark back at Amity and…
Hey, wait just a damn minute. She wasn’t there! How could she have a freakin’ flashback!?
Yeah. I guess maybe the Shark is sending her mental Voodoo images of what it did to Sean, you know, just to rub it in. Kind of like when football players do those goofy dances after scoring a touchdown.
Anyway, after Ellen remembers seeing Sean getting eaten (and once again, she wasn’t there), she realizes what she must do: The Shark must be destroyed. For inspiration, she remembers back to the first Jaws movie when she watched her husband shoot Bruce and…Holy Shit! She wasn’t there either!!! How the hell can she have flashbacks to this?!
Fine. I guess the Shark is sending her Mental Voodoo Images of its memories, even though this Shark wasn’t there to see Sheriff Brody either.
I give up.
As Ellen steers the boat directly towards the Shark, Michael zaps it and presumably drives it crazy. (Jake’s words…not mine.)
I guess the shocking-thing works because the Shark rears up out of the water and gives a loud roar. (!!!)
You know, up to this point I’ve managed to limit my animosity towards this film to a smoldering disdain.
I now really, really, hate this movie.
Ok, now I want to savor the next few moments as the Shark meets it demise.
Ellen runs the pointy thing on the front of the boat (like I said, I know shite about boats) into the Shark, at which time it explodes (!!!) in what is truly some terrible special effects. (And that’s saying a lot for this movie.) Oh, and the boat sinks as well (!?), dumping everybody into the drink.
To add insult to injury, the film makers had the gall to re-use footage from the original Jaws showing Bruce’s bloody body sinking into the depths. (How can they sleep at night? Bastardos!)
Don’t leave for the parking lot just yet.
The test audiences of the original cut of the film didn’t like that fact that Jake died. Because, you know, he’s soooo loveable, mon.
In a jaw-dropping moment of poor decision making, they re-shot the film’s ending to show Jake bobbing up to the surface…still alive!!! To make things even worse, they apparently didn’t bother to return to the Bahamas to shoot the new footage, so it was shot in a large tank with clouds painted on the walls (!) where, and I’m not making this up, you can see the water splashing off the back of the tank. I mean, it’s not like I had to pause the film and break out the magnifying glass to see this. Just watch the damn film: You can see the water rippling off the walls at the rear of the shot.
Anyhoo, Michael sees Jake bobbing along the waves, no worse for the wear. Well, he does have a cut on his head and his shirt has blood on it.
"It’s Jake!" Michael cries with relief as bubbly music reaches a happy crescendo.
The survivors paddle back to shore while hanging onto chunks of the boat. Where the debris came from, I don’t know. I thought the boat sank.
Awwwww…to hell with it. I’m going to bed.
(Thank God) The End
Dennis Grisbeck (Nov 2006)
You know what? I went back and took a screen shot from when the Shark gobbled Jake up and took him down into the water to show you just how freaking improbable his survival was: