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I'm a longtime contributor to MTV, Billboard, Alternative Press and MovieWeb. I've worked as on-air reporter, host, writer and producer for MTV, MSNBC and E!. I have provided opinion and commentary to programs on VH1, IFC, G4, Fuse, Current and Oxygen. I have written for Huffington Post, Premiere, OC Weekly, SFGate.com, NextMovie.com, MTV's television and movie blogs and other publications. I am the founder of Superhero Productions, providing broadcast, online and aftermarket content for a number of clients including Lionsgate, Sony and Warner Bros. I personally handle artist management for a handful of bands. "Ryan Downey has established a history of breaking some good scoops in the last few years, and you could certainly do worse than bookmark [him] to check in on." -- Ain't It Cool

Friday, August 20, 2010

Movie Review: "Piranha 3D"

Directed By: Alexandre Aja
Starring: Elisabeth Shue, Steven R. McQueen, Jerry O'Connell, Kelly Brook, Adam Scott, Paul Scheer, Ving Rhames, Jessica Szhor, Christopher Lloyd, Richard Dreyfuss, Eli Roth
3 Stars

Attention b-movie directors, take note: "Piranha 3D" gets it exactly right. It's not a comedy, per se, but it's an absolute blast from start to finish that has you laughing along with it instead of at it.

The movie is gorier than anything in the torture porn genre, spills more blood than Jason and throws human beings in the jaws of flesh-eating fish with reckless abandon, but it never feels hateful, nor real. And yet it maintains a nice balance against its more cartoonish impulses as well.

Here's the setup: An earthquake releases prehistoric, flesh-eating piranhas on a lake teaming with hundreds of horny, partying teenagers in a small town protected only by local sheriffs. (The piranhas - both physical and digital - look fearsome, funny and awesome, by the way).

We are introduced to the only two teenagers we'll really care about (one is from "Gossip Girl," the other from "The Vampire Diaries"), the local cops (most notably Elisabeth Shue and Ving Rhames), seismologists (led by Adam Scott), a sleazy pornographer (Jerry O'Connell), his cameraman (Paul Scheer), his number one babe (Kelly Brook), a local "fish" expert of some kind (Christopher Lloyd) and hundreds of nameless, faceless, half-naked, partying buffoons (one of whom is Eli Roth).

Then we watch most of them get eaten.

I mean, we watch people get eaten in glorious, creative, gratuitous, hilarious and completely absurd ways. Real world rules don't apply, nor should they. People live with injuries that should have killed them instantly if there's a good gag to be had. In the press, Eli Roth has marveled at the amounts of fake blood used in "Piranha 3D" versus "Inglorious Basterds" or "Hostel." And it's all onscreen.

With the wanton glee of Peter Jackson's "Dead Alive" or Sam Raimi's "Evil Dead 2," this movie doesn't pretend to be anything more than advertised, which is precisely it's greatest strength. People are dispensed with by the piranha with abandon, enthusiasm and, bizarrely, even, joy. You may find yourself shrieking in surprise at some of the jolts (and certainly at the overthetop gore), but it's the type of popcorn film where you're sort of rooting for the bad guys (er, fish) at times.

The 3D name-checked in the title destroys "Clash of the Titans" or "Alice In Wonderland." Of course, when you have two naked girls making out underwater, or (spoiler alert) two piranhas fighting over a severed penis with one eventually burping it back up into the camera? Obviously, it's no contest.

Each actor has said they were excited to work with Alexandre Aja, the French film director behind "High Tension" (2003) and the remake of "The Hills Have Eyes" (2006) and watching this movie, you understand why. All of the actors deliver exactly what's expected of them in fine fashion.

O'Connell is having a blast playing someone who definitely isn't Joe Francis from "Girls Gone Wild" (wink, wink), just as Richard Dreyfuss isn't cameo-ing as Matt Hooper from "Jaws", but some other Matt (wink, wink, again!).

You'd think this is the type of movie comedian Scheer would make fun of on VH1, but his mere presence sort of validates it. Adam Scott is great, playing his character with just the slightest self-awareness without going over the top (plus, he does some stunts!). Jessica Szohr and Steven R. McQueen, grandson of you-guessed-it, are plenty good as well. Of course Ving Rhames is badass and Elisabeth Shue is wonderful. In full Doc Brown hysterics, Christopher Lloyd elicited cheers from the audience with every line he delivered. I will fully cop to having a new celebrity crush on Kelly Brook. And I'd like to thank the British for letting us borrow her. Hopefully, she can stay a while.

I have a minor quibble with the movie for putting a couple of little kids in peril, but they both survive (whoops, spoiler alert). As a parent, it made me uncomfortable. But I won't be making any picket signs to protest "Piranha 3D"'s insensitivity, certainly not when I delighted in the rest of it.

Brightly lit, surprisingly fun and with just the right mixture of real effects (courtesy of the Oscar winning KNB Studios -- I've been there!) and digital wizardry (baby piranhas in their shells, neat!), "Piranha 3D" delivers everything anyone could possibly want from a movie called "Piranha 3D."

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