By: Garrett Collins
Starring: Lorraine Gary, Lance Guest, Michael Caine, Karen Young, Lynn Whitfield, Judith Barsi, Mitchell Anderson, and Mario Van Peebles
I ran into a little predicament while watching Jaws: The Revenge, a movie that is widely considered to be not only the worst sequel, but one of the worst studio movies of all time, for this review. The predicament I had was this: is this movie really as bad as it is made out to be? After watching and reviewing Jaws 3, yes, I was pretty harsh on it. But, all things considered, it wasn’t as bad as I remembered. So, in my mind, as the title Jaws: The Revenge flashed on my TV and the rendition of Williams’ old score echoed through my speakers, I really was giving passive interest to the fact that I was probably going to be more generous to this movie than I thought. However, once I got about ten minutes into the film and the story started kicking in, it hit me: Amigos: Jaws: The Revenge does not have a so bad, it’s good quality about it. Jaws The Revenge, by all accounts, is just a horrible movie.
What’s so interesting about this movie is the way it approaches the material. Directed by Joseph Sargent and written by Michael de Guzman (both of whom did not have the brightest of careers) Jaws: The Revenge takes a personal storyline approach to it. I guess the last film left such a horrible taste in the studio’s mouth that they wanted to completely ignore it and go with another human stylized story. And, you know what? I liked this approach. It was the right way to do it. After all, what made the first film so good was the way we liked the characters and how they interacted with one another. And, without blatantly calling it out, I think both Benchley and Spielberg wanted to show that, yes, the shark in that movie DID want to play with the characters’ minds. It DID haunt Chief Brody. It DID play games with Quint by leading the boat further out to sea, making it easier to dismantle the boat and dismantle Quint himself. Where the problems start for this, the fourth in the Jaws series, is that it blatantly calls the point out that in fact, this IS personal. And not just with the characters. But with the shark itself. Hell, it’s all in the tagline-‘this time, it’s personal.’ So, in terms of plot, here is what de Guzman has outlined for us: a shark in the Amity community has taken to get back at the Brody family by haunting it in its waters. He (or is it she?) has become so angry at the family for destroying two of its own (see, the third one doesn’t count) and decides to destroy them as well. After, low and behold, he finds Sean (Anderson)as he is picking up a piece of wood from the water. Ellen Brody (Gary) heads to take shelter with her son Mike (Guest) in the Bahamas and, in three days, the shark has swum up to the Bahamas from New York to finish the job. Folks, even if I wanted to, I could not defend this plot. I cannot make it a so bad, it’s good plot, and truth be told, it belongs in a sleuth of sci-fi Saturday night features, not as the fourth film of a franchise.
The problems really do not stop at the plot though. In the course of this film’s running time, it is being steered by Sargent. Like I said, Sargent’s resume really isn’t anything to write home about. He mostly delves into human dramas, which I gather is precisely why he got this gig. So, who was telling him how to direct the shark scenes? I think that Michael Bay took lessons from him on how to direct these, because, starting with Sean’s death and carrying on through ‘dream sequences’ (yes, this film has those as well), there is some majorly rapid, frantic cutting going on. To me, when a director does this it means that he has no idea how to build tension. And, while this will become readily apparent later, I think most people in 1987, seeing that it was a PG-13 rating, were expecting something horrific. Little did they know that it was the directing style that they were talking about as well. Of course, we are also introduced to the cast of characters roaming around this movie. And, this is where I am going to give the film its slightest bit of credo. No, not because of Peebles writing his own part of Jamaican voiced Jake (Quint you are not, sir). I actually enjoyed Caine’s character of Hoagie developing a relationship with Ellen, and her unwillingness to go with it at first but getting won over. And, I enjoyed how Mike, having encountered the shark himself, is hiding it from his wife (Young) & the personal pressure it brought to him. Also, maybe it’s because we had been with these two characters for two films before, but I liked the relationship between Ellen & her son Mike. You can understand her unwillingness to let her son continue being a marine biologist (why he would be one to begin with is a whole other story. Just let me give the movie these few compliments and give me a break, will you?). Call me crazy, but these storylines worked for me. Too bad that was all I could go with.
All in all, Jaws: The Revenge is a horrible movie. And I would love to say that the shark attacks make it at least feasible to sit through. But, even someone who finds themselves engrossed in the ‘revenge’ aspect of the story would groan when Mike’s daughter Thea is on a banana boat and we see the (incredibly fake looking) shark head towards the boat and take…..the girl next to her! If it wanted revenge, wouldn’t taking Mike’s little girl do it? God…why am I trying to make logic out of this mess?! Truth be told, this film was born out of runner of Universal Studios at the time Sid Sheinberg wanting to make his wife Gary a star. Almost a female that would match up with Ripley from the Alien series. And, logic be damned trying to make that happen! I say take your revenge on Sheinberg and just watch the first film in this series (maybe the second if you like good shark scenes).
1 out of 5