By: Garrett Collins
Starring: Dennis Quaid, Bess Armstrong, Simon MacCorkindale, Louis Gossett Jr, John Putch, and Lea Thompson
“The third dimension is terror!” That, folks, is the tagline to Jaws 3. Anybody that thinks today’s 3D films are ridiculous should take a glance at this 1983 3D turkey. The third film in a series that is living proof that they should have stopped at the first, Jaws 3 had the distinction of being the last 3D film to come out at the tail end of the 80s version of the 3D craze. Cleverly the third film in a series, 3D movies in this era consisted of titles like Friday the 13th Part 3, Amityville 3, and, of course, Jaws 3. Armed with effects such as a dead fish in the confines of a shark’s stomach opening its mouth and an arrow flying at the camera, Jaws 3 does reach new horrendous proportions of ‘special’ effects. Through and through, when watching Jaws 3 as a whole, its many examples of ridiculous plodding (what were those robbers robbing exactly?), actors who were clearly there to collect a check (Mr. Gossett, I am talking to you), and a story which, according to the film’s original screen writer Richard Matheson, was nothing like it was originally written, Jaws 3 has in fact earned its well deserved reputation as one of the worst sequels ever made.
But, just how bad is Jaws 3? Well, despite the final statement of that last paragraph, I might surprise a lot of people with what I am going to say next: despite its reputation, I do not think that it is as bad as it is made out to be. In fact, when the film is on land, it surprisingly, for the most part, works for me. A shark getting loose within the confines of an amusement park is really something that, to me, as someone who grew up in the Bay Area, an intriguing idea. In fact, when a water park near me announced that they were going to open up the ‘shark experience,’ where tourists were enabled to walk amongst a sea of sharks around them, this was the first film I thought of. It is a scary notion to be unwittingly part of ‘their world.’ Now, how and what exactly gets loose and causes havoc is where the problems come in. First of all, anyone expecting references to the earlier films of the series will only see a very short scene involving Mike Brody (Quaid) talking to his girlfriend Kay (Armstrong) about ‘what happened to him and his little brother’ when they were kids in Amity. Was this a good idea? Probably not. But then, this film as a whole wasn’t too good of an idea, so it can just be added to the pile of reasons. But really: the plot involving what exactly happened to the gate to let the shark in and where Shelby Oberman, who was supposed to fix it, was or could be sucked me right in. And, how cute was Thompson in her film debut? Let me answer for you: she is smoking hot as water skier Kelly here and it is not hard to see why she would go on to have the career she did afterwards. I thought the chemistry between Quaid and Armstrong was pretty decent, and when Mike’s brother Shaun (Putch) does show up it creates a neat little dynamic between the four of them.
But, Amigos: that is where the compliments to this film end. Because, while it entranced me as a little kid watching that little yellow submarine (hmmmm?) and those cute dolphins communicate with Mike and Kay, in a film called Jaws, a shark must eventually come into play. And, while I didn’t give Jaws 2 an overly glowing review, what was unmistakably the only great thing about that film was how good the shark scenes were set up and executed. Here? Oh boy. First, let’s start with the first shark we see. A ‘baby.’ This thing does nothing really but be a nuisance. However, Phillip FitzRoyce (MacCorkindale) gets the genius idea to capture the ‘beasty.’ All these scenes are set ups for, you guessed it: the mother to get wind of its baby’s capture and go on a rampage! That’s right. In the words of Calvin Bouchard (Gossett), I am ‘talking about some damn shark’s mother.’ Ho-hum. I guess Jaws 3 is a simple case of what you can believe or tolerate. Depending on if you can go along with a ridiculous plot, you might have a good time with it. Needless to say, I did not.
However, that is just the plot. As already established, I didn’t overly enjoy the plot to the last one. But, I went along with it cause the shark scenes and effects were masterfully pulled off. What about the ones in Jaws 3, you may ask? B – movie does not even begin to comprehend a description of what was accomplished here. A shot of the 35 foot mother shark headed towards the Undersea Kingdom is, in a word, embarrassing to have in a big Hollywood production such as this. As is the notion that it growls. That’s right folks. This shark must be part bear because when it sees tourists or people she believes did her kid wrong, she precedes her attacks on them with a growl! And, don’t even get me started with what is perhaps the worst shot in the history of shots, which takes place immediately after the title character of this film is finally distinguished. As hard of a time I am giving these effects, the one great thing they pulled off was when we see the examination of Shelby Oberman’s corpse. That corpse, my friends, still lingers in my head as one of the best rendered and sickening corpses I have ever seen onscreen. In conclusion, I think that Jaws 3 was a case of people having a halfway decent script and 3D gimmick they needed to incorporate into one foundation of a film that is the third in a franchise, and were flat out over their heads. Director Joe Alves also served as first assistant director on previous films in the series. And, I think he honestly thought he would be able to handle the job. And, if he did not have the 3D and bad effects to work with, he could have pulled off at least a semi watchable movie. Instead of a so bad, it’s good one.
2.5 out of 5