Just when you thought it was safe to go back to… Sea World! A Deadly New Attraction, indeed…
Well who’d have thought a third JAWS would abandon the cozy mainstay of Amity Beach and take place at an oceanic theme park, relying on Three Dimensions to make things like dolphins, killer whales, spear guns, and sea monster decorations come at you on the big... or in this case, the small screen... Directed by Joe Alves, the former production assistant who brought the shark to life in the first two outings, this isn’t as bad as the maligned reputation...
The character template coinciding with the original 1975 summer blockbuster are as follows… Dennis Quaid is the Roy Scheider, not only because he’s in charge of the park the way Chief Brody partially ran Amity Island, but he’s Mike Brody, the oldest son who dog-paddled in the estuary/pond while his coach got eaten... Richard Dreyfuss, the shark expert Hooper, returns in the form of Bess Armstrong as Dr. Kay Morgan, who lives with Mike... Instead of being into sharks, she's "into dolphins".
Kay is the ringleader who, with the help of real Sea World trainer Liz Morris, makes the jovial dolphins leap to cheering crowds… She also replaces Lorraine Gary, who played the Chief’s wife… and as a headstrong female character, Kay is something to admire... when the time comes to kill the shark after the theme park is under attack, she's the man.
Murray Hamilton’s selfish Mayor has morphed into Louis Gosset Jr. as entrepreneur Calvin Bouchard… no matter what kind of threat lurks, or how many employees go missing, Calvin wants to keep his theme park open for financial gain.
And while Captain Quint, played brilliantly by the scene-stealing Robert Shaw, was the shark hunting rogue, we have Simon MacCorkindale’s ambiguous hot shot Philip FitzRoyce, who will do anything for a buck and most of all, media coverage. Think of Fitz Royce as Captain Quint combined with Geraldo River, he's the kind of guy you're supposed to love and hate. Also included is Mike’s little brother. You might remember him making faces at daddy during the heartfelt dinner scene in the original.
Mike is now in his twenties, is visiting his brother at the theme park and still afraid of the water (because of the sailboat-caravan trauma in JAWS 2). He quickly hooks up with Kelly, the cutest water-skiing girl of the lot. Kelly is played by a pre-fame Lea Thompson. She and Mike hit it off way too fast, and while Lea provides dandy eye-candy to the proceedings (Bess is more of the thinking man's hottie), the little brother is the most annoyingly disposable character.
The 3D device aside, the movie has a large scope with a grainy, slick dynamic, almost as if it were filmed in the wide-screen 70’s. This is not the usual JAWS style venture, despite the similar character template, but more of a disaster film, setting up the “perfect” location that, despite all the work and ambition, is doomed from the start. Or rather, doomed by the shark.
The formidable Carcharodon carcharias, in the film’s vapid intro, beheads a fish. Unlike the groundbreaking prologue of the original, when Chrissie gets pulled around like a rag doll... or the divers being attacked in the sequel... this is one of the worst openings in film history. And yet, despite the malignant reputation, there are worthy aspects to this third JAWS including a decent setup for the characters, each having an important part of the storyline.
The near-future Sea World has an underground structure allowing people to see normal sized sharks and other big fishes swimming around. In one scene Mike and Kay investigate a sunken boat by use of a mini yellow submarine.
Meanwhile, up above, montage sequences of bikini girls waterskiing (during practice and the real thing) and stock footage of dolphins and killer whales bring you right into the location, making for an assortment of filler moments that are relaxing and, albeit pointless, fun to watch. For a movie that’s been deemed one of the worst sequels ever, it’s not that horrible.
The main problem is the often dull script, which meanders at times, leading to a wannabe Irwin Allen climax. The action sequences (when our heroes go after the shark) are edited shoddily, and the body count victims are killed in an uncreative, awkward fashion.
Sure it's good to not see the shark too much, but in this case, he... or rather, she... needed much more screen time!
By James M. Tate