Horror Film Review: Jaws 3 (dir by Joe Alves)


So, this is a strange one.

As the title states, this 1983 film is the third sequel to the Jaws.  As I pointed out in my reviews of the first film and Jaws 2, the first two films all starred Roy Scheider and took place on Amity Island.  In fact, it can be argued that Amity Island was almost as important to the success of the first two films as the shark.  When Martin Brody conquered his fears and got out on the water, it wasn’t just to destroy a shark.  It was also to protect a community under siege.

Well, there’s no such community like Amity Island in Jaws 3.  And there’s no Roy Scheider either.  Instead, our hero is Martin Brody’s son, Mike.  Mike is all grown up and working as the senior marine biologist at SeaWorld Orlando.  Mike is now played by a very young and very bearded Dennis Quaid.  This leads to an interesting situation where Mike — who grew up in New England and whose father was a former New York City cop — has a very pronounced Texas accent.  That’s not a complaint, of course.  I’m from Texas so I’m always happy to see (and hear) a fellow Texan in a movie.  Plus, Dennis Quaid’s a likable actor.  Still, it somehow seems appropriate that the third installment of the Jaws franchise would feature a New Yorker growing up to be a Texan.  I mean, if we’re going to accept that the same outlandish event can keep happening to the members of the same family then I guess anything’s possible.

The other Brody son, Sean, is also featured in the film.  Sean is now played by John Putch and, when he first shows up to visit Mike, he’s dressed like he just got off work at the rodeo.  You have to kind of wonder if maybe the trauma of nearly getting killed in Jaws 2 led to both of the Brody boys rejecting their New England roots and embracing the ways of the west.  Say what you will about Texas and all the states in between El Paso and Los Angeles, we’re pretty much shark free.

Anyway, this is a Jaws films so you can guess what happens.  A big shark ends up getting loose in SeaWorld and Mike tries to close the park down, just to be overruled by the park’s manger, Calvin Bouchard (Lou Gossett, Jr.).  Meanwhile, a hunter named Philip Fitzroyce (Simon MacCorkindale) announces that he will personally track down and kill the shark.  As you might guess just from the fact that his last name is Fitzroyce, Philip is arrogant and speaks with a posh accent.  Mike takes an immediate dislike to him but I was happy whenever Philip showed up, mostly because Simon MacCorkindale gave a performance that was so over-the-top that it was fun to watch.  Whenever MacCorkindale and Gossett got together in the same scene, the film stopped being about the shark and instead became a contest to see who could overenunciate their dialogue with the most style.

(In the end, MacCorkindale won, but only narrowly.  A few years after Jaws 3, Gossett would co-star in The Principal and would go on to secure his spot in the Overenunciation Hall Of Fame by pronouncing the word “drugs” in such a way that I first thought he was talking about druids.)

One of the reasons why Jaws 3 seems odd when watched today is because it was originally released in 3-D.  (In fact, the film’s original title was Jaws 3-D.)  As a result, there’s a lot of scenes of people either walking towards or pointing directly at the camera.  Whenever anyone holds up a pole or a harpoon or anything similar, you know that they’re going to end up pointing the end of it straight at the viewer.  At the start of the film, when the shark bites a fish in half, the fish’s head ominously floats closer and closer to the camera.  There’s a lot of scenes that were obviously designed to make audiences says, “Oh my God!  I feel like I could reach out and touch it!” but, in the non-3D version, those scenes are just weirdly paced and slightly out-of-focus.  (At one point during the film, the picture was so blurry that I actually checked to make sure I had my contacts in.)

Add to that, there’s more than few scenes where it’s obvious that the shark has been superimposed into the action.  If the first two Jaws films featured big sharks, Jaws 3 often seems to feature a cartoon shark.  In short, what may have been impressive in a theater in 1983 to an audience wearing special glasses is far less impressive when you’re watching the movie at 3 in the morning on AMC.

The other weird thing about this film is that it was actually filmed at SeaWorld Orlando.  I’m going to guess that the film was supposed to serve as a 99-minute advertisement and a lot of time is devoted to people talking about how much they love SeaWorld.  At the same time, this film also features the park’s manager refusing to shut down the park and basically putting everyone’s life in danger.  If anything, the film’s main message seems to be, “If you go to SeaWorld, you’ll die.”  You have to wonder if some executive lost his job after Jaws 3 came out.

Anyway, Jaws 3 is a silly movie that never quite comes to life in the way that both Jaws and, to a lesser extent, Jaws 2 did.  Yes, the shark’s ruthless and we get to hear the familiar music and there’s some cute dolphins but otherwise, the movie itself is just kind of bland.  Rumor has it that Jaws 3 was originally going to be a comedy called Jaws 3 People 0.  That probably would have made for a more memorable movie but, at the same time, I got some good laughs out of the scene where the tourists in an underwater tunnel realized that a shark was watching them so, in the end, everything worked out for the best.

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #88: Dream Lover (dir by Nicholas Kazan)


Dream_Lover_FilmPosterThe 1994 film Dream Lover is almost as strange as Zandalee.

Dream Lover opens with Roy Reardon (James Spader, giving a very James Spaderish performance) in the process of getting divorced.  Sitting in court, he announces that he’s fired his attorney and that he’s no longer contesting the divorce.  The judge informs him that, if he did contest the divorce, the final judgment would be in his favor.  Roy says that doesn’t matter.  He doesn’t want to contest the divorce.

In the next scene, Roy’s ex-wife tells him that he’s a great guy and that it’s too bad that they couldn’t make the marriage work.  They agree that they were just too different.  She apologizes for cheating on him.  Roy apologizes for hitting her.  They agree that Roy has trust issues.

Over the next few minutes of the film, we follow Roy over the course of his new single life.  We discover that Roy is a successful architect who is always attracted to brunette artists with troubled backstories.  We also discover that Roy’s best friend is an obnoxious yet strangely likable guy named Norman (Larry Miller, who brings some unexpected depth to an obnoxious character).  Norman begs Roy for money.  Roy refuses to give it to him.  Norman invites Roy to an art gallery and offers to set him up with a woman he knows.  Roy agrees.  And, seriously, the first 20 minutes of the film are so dominated by Norman that you’re kind of surprised when the film moves on and he’s no longer in every scene.

(But then again, that’s the type of film that Dream Lover is.  Characters appear and vanish at random.  Plot points are raised and then abandoned.)

Anyway, Roy’s date is disastrous.  (“You don’t like me,” the woman says as tears stream down her face.)  However, during the date, Roy meets Lena (Madchen Amick).  When first they meet, they fight.  Then they run into each other again at the grocery store and they hit it off.  They go to dinner and, despite having a good time, Lena makes a point of not inviting Roy up to her apartment.  The next night, Roy shows up unannounced and Lena does invite him up.  At first, she’s cold towards him.  Then they’re making love.  And then they’re getting married.  And then the clowns show up…

Oh yes, there are clowns in this movie.  Roy is haunted by visions, where he’s at a carnival and random clowns pop up and say cryptic things to him.  “How’s the family?” one asks.  Another one continually reminds him that he doesn’t know much about Lena.

Years pass by.  Lena and Roy have two children but it continues to nag at Roy that he doesn’t know anything about her.  He worries that she’s cheating on him.  He fears that the children are not his.  Roy’s friends tell him that he’s being paranoid.  Roy argues that paranoia is just a heightened form of consciousness.

Roy starts to investigate Lena’s past and here’s where I really laughed out loud.  Roy finds out that Lena is from North Texas and goes down to her hometown.  As Roy arrives in this tiny country town, the camera reveals a huge mountain in the background.  Really, Dream Lover?  A mountain in North Texas?

Anyway, for me, this film never really recovered from that mountain but, if you can overlook that geographic mistake, Dream Lover is occasionally enjoyable because it is such a weird film.  James Spader is hot, Madchen Amick is beautiful, and the entire film features one of those huge and improbable twists that you simply have to see for yourself.

And you can see it because it’s currently available on Netflix!