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.