“Sharknado” Watched on a Dare

Aubrey Peeples, Sharknado, Syfy

Shark from above!

Last week during our vacation, all the chatter from our usual signals was about two different travesties. One was covered on a dozen different TV channels and therefore lost me on oversaturation principle. The other was the latest Syfy Original Movie, Sharknado. It’s not often that my wife and I watch something on TV simply because other people won’t shut up about it, but we were curious as to why this particular cheesy production received more attention than Syfy’s last fifty slapdash offerings. I can report with a straight face that it met my exact expectations, by which I mean UGH.

Even though the title sounds self-explanatory, the first half of the film contains 0% tornado. Instead we watch one Hurricane David besiege L.A. with a series of tidal waves that erupt from behind every tall object in sight, even if they’re miles from the nearest body of water. Every other wave is, of course, teeming with aerodynamic sharks who have mad acrobatic skills and bottomless stomachs. I have no idea why this wasn’t more accurately named Sharkwave.

I’m equally unclear as to why the storms extrude only sharks from the Pacific Ocean — no octopi, no whales, no clownfish, no happy dolphins, no billions of pounds of krill, just a few thousand sharks. Hurricane David either has amazing luck with its random destruction or is a shockingly speciesist catastrophe.

Your main characters, forced to spend ¾ of the film running away and ¼ of the film standing their ground, are:

* Ian Ziering from the original Beverly Hills 90210 as a beachfront bar owner who becomes The Hero because bad animal weather threatens his customers and livelihood. All things considered, Ziering does the job required of him, even when it involves setting a bad example for the kids by running with a live chainsaw.

* Cassie Scerbo (ABC Family’s Make It or Break It) as The Hero’s only employee, who has unexplained scars that we know will be explained later with an anecdote involving sharks and a loved one’s passing. This young sidekick threatens to become The Hero’s May/December love interest until we meet…

* Former star Tara Reid (the American Pie series) as The Hero’s ex-wife, about whom he still cares because ???, even though she hates him with such a passion that she speaks only in hateful ex-wife clichés whenever he’s around and/or whenever she’s onscreen.

* Aubrey Peeples (Necessary Roughness) as The Hero’s daughter, who hates him because her mom does, and because she’s ignored like a middle child. This last part has no bearing on the plot except that she has a breakdown over it while everyone else is too busy worrying about flying toothy death instead of paying attention to poor li’l useless her.

* Tasmanian actor Jaason Simmons (Baywatch) as The Hero’s fun Tasmanian best friend, who survives more than one shark bite, knows how to whip up a mean bomb, and lasts much longer than lunchmeat buddies typically do in these films.

* Once-commonplace ’80s/’90s supporting actor John Heard (the Home Alone dad) as The Hero’s best customer, drunken comic relief with an unhealthy attachment to his trusty bar stool.

* Chuck Hittinger (Pretty Little Liars) as The Hero’s son, who isn’t introduced or even mentioned until the last half-hour, during which his first-year flight-school education-in-progress saves the day as he successfully pilots a small helicopter perilously near three different F4 tornadoes without being sucked in or mangled into a copter-sized medicine ball, unlike the several million tons of debris, buildings, and much larger vehicles that aren’t so lucky.

* An uncredited Robbie Rist (the notorious Cousin Oliver from The Brady Bunch) in a brief role as a school bus driver with a load of endangered kids on his hands. Though the end credits flew by at Mach 1 with no scene after them, I did notice Rist also composed several songs for the soundtrack. Among them, the official “Theme from Sharknado” is a blatant Ramones homage. I guess that counts as laudable.

The results and carnage are par for the course: one-take half-hearted performances, surprise shark-jaw snapping, bad one-liners, icky dismemberment, bad science, overwrought speeches, bystanders who yell stupid things right before they die, disdain for the simple concept of cause-and-effect, even worse one-liners, and CG effects at the level of local used-car-lot commercials. Hardcore fans of Syfy Original Movies will find all the staples they crave and more, none of that pesky art or craft.

Despite my barely defensible weakness for the occasional Roland Emmerich big-budget apocalypse, I don’t have much inclination for watching low-rent films that intentionally suck. Perhaps it’s a double standard, but I’m actually more forgiving when suckiness happens despite all attempts at quality control. For my own selfish sake, here’s hoping social media turns a blind eye when Syfy follows up with the likes of Hippocane, Tigerphoon, Lizard Blizzard, or a rabbit Armageddon called Thumperstorm.


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