Jaws: The Revenge (1987)

Oof magoof…  Talk about your ill-advised sequels.

1975’s Jaws is a cinematic triumph in proportions never seen before.  It broke box office records.  It was the first, true “blockbuster”.  It changed the way movies are released.  Hell, it created what would become the “summer movie”.

The funny thing is, it shouldn’t have worked out the way it did.  The production was a disaster with mechanical sharks used to depict “Bruce the Shark” constantly breaking down and nearly unusable to the point that direct Steven Spielberg had to become incredibly creative on how he shot the shark.  The production shot at sea which caused lots of problems when unwanted boats simply drifted into frame.  The film went way beyond schedule and way over budget.

Still, it became a cinematic masterpiece and put Spielberg on the map to make pretty much whatever he wanted forever.

Due to the overwhelming success of the film, Universal simply couldn’t let it go with a single film.  They ordered a sequel no one wanted to do.  It did okay at the box office.  A third movie was made and released during the early 80s short-lived 3-D craze that turned out to be an utter mess.  So, in 1987, a fourth movie, directed by Joseph Sargent, was made ignoring the plot of the third film of the series.  Gone were any of the original actors from either of the first two movies save for Lorraine Gary as Ellen Brody.  Add in Michael Caine, and an insane plot, and, massively diminishing profits be damned, you’ve got yourself a Jaws: The Revenge.

Oh boy, do you have yourself a Jaws: The Revenge

What’s this movie about?  Well…  A shark attacks Amity, Massachusetts.  Again.  And Ellen Brody, wife of our heroic town sheriff from the first two Jaws movies, starts to think something is quite a bit different about this attack.  This time, she thinks, it’s personal!

Yeah.  A shark is personally attacking the Brody family.  No shit…  Universal sold this movie with the tagline “This time it’s personal.”  I’m not kidding you.  Don’t believe me that they tried this story for this film?  Let’s take a look at the evidence!

I will give this movie one compliment.  Most of the times I sit down to write one of these articles, I will put the DVD (if that is the form of media I am using to view the movie) into my computer and, almost as if I’m psyching myself up to tackle a turd, I go and take a shit in the bathroom and probably play around a little bit on my tablet.  After all, Avengers Academy does not play itself, people.  So many times when I’ve done this the movie simply starts on its own.  It’s like the movie is so self-conscious about itself that it’s afraid you will suddenly decide to not watch it and start the movie automatically after only 30 seconds or so of the main menu.

At least this movie has the fuckin’ balls to wait for me to finish my shit.

The movie starts with Ellen Brody cooking dinner with the younger of the two Brody brothers, Sean.  They get a call from Michael, the elder Brody brother, and, through clunky exposition dialog, we learn he’s married with a daughter, and living in the Bahamas as a marine biologist.  Later, Sean gets sent out to clear some driftwood creating problems in the harbor.  When he goes to clear it out, he is attacked by a great white shark and killed because his screams are drowned out by the practicing choir on the dock preparing for a Christmas pageant.

Michael arrives from the Bahamas with his wife and daughter.  It takes Ellen all of like 20 seconds to tell Michael she thinks the shark singled out Sean, waited “all those years”, and ultimately found its opportunity to attack.  Michael… Is understandably put off by this thought.  That night, Ellen demands that Michael give up his job and get out of the water.  She says she doesn’t want any of her family to ever get in the water ever again.  Riiight.  This is exactly what I wanted from my action-packed shark-themed thriller – a hysterical 50 year old lady believing sharks have some sort of ability to trap and attack specific people from a family.

Oh, and what ever happened to Ellen’s husband, Martin Brody (originally played by Roy Scheider)?

He’s dead.  From what?  From the fear of the water.  Yes, Martin was afraid of the water in the original Jaws.  However, he overcame  his fear to defeat not one, but two sharks in two Jaws movies.  He wasn’t killed by becoming a world-traveling shark hunter whose luck eventually ran out.  He wasn’t killed trying to stop a bad guy who was holding hostages inside a bank.  Fucking Christ…  He didn’t even die of something mundane.  He died of a heart attack that is heavily implied came from his fear of water.

Some point after Sean’s funeral, Michael talks his mom into coming down to the Bahamas and getting out of the cold and bummer weather… oh and that bummer drag of being around where her son was killed by a shark.  She sorta declines at first, but then in a manic burst of excitement agrees.  Michael instantly sets them up to leave that very afternoon.

Smash cut to the Brody family flying into the Bahamas with Michael Caine.  Michael Caine famously had to miss out on going to the Oscars the night he finally won the Academy Award for Hannah and Her Sisters in 1987 in order to report for reshoots to help clean up the mess of a movie this was.  At least at one point, he had never seen this movie either.  He did state that even though he had never seen it, and was aware that the reception was quite negative, he was proud of the house the pay he accepted built.  In all, no one had to really love what was happening in this movie.  Take a look at this picture below and look at the four adults in this plane:

Not a single one of them are looking at the same thing.  You could kind of say that Lance Guest (Michael) is looking at a piece of Karen Young’s (Michael’s wife, Carla) leg, but, really, none of them are looking at each other.  It’s one of those times in which a perfectly placed pause in a movie I’m watching shows how people had to have felt while making this.  Even Lorraine Gary, who had never really had a leading part in a movie and had been retired for eight years prior to this movie, looks like she’s really regretting some decisions in her life.

So it’s Christmas in the Bahamas for the Brody family.  The dirt is likely barely settled on Sean’s dead fucking corpse, and it’s an island adventure for everyone!  Not to mention, crazy grandma is already freaking out over how much water is around, and her granddaughter swinging on a rope out over the sea, but what the fuck does Michael do???  He shows her a steel sculpture his wife made that looks like a goddamn shark swimming in for an attack.

At least this movie has two things going for it – Michael Caine being charismatic as all get out, and Mario Van Peebles, with a thick islander accent, as Michael’s science buddy.  It’s such an over-the-top accent that you almost have to believe that it was a condition for him being hired for this part.  Like he said, “Look, I’m one of the guys from one of the Exterminator movies with that one guy from The Paper Chase.  You want this, I get to do that accent.”  Somebody at Universal was like, “Yes!  Yes, you were in Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song.  Of course you can do whatever you wish!”

It’s actually a really good performance though.  It really is a bright spot in this utterly terrible movie.

Michael notices that his mom is getting pretty close to Hoagie (Caine).  She tells Hoagie that she knows the shark who killed Sean is coming after her.  Even after that, and her asking him what it “costs” to get a “flight” on his “plane” like right to his face, basically saying she wants to check out his dick, he’s still pretty into the idea of spending the day with her.  I guess Hoagie is kinda into the idea of crazy chicks because he’ll probably get some schnizz off her pretty easily.

But, as the, er… young… lovers spend the day taking in the sights and sounds of the Bahamas, a great white shark suddenly shows up to first give a shark’s version of a fist bump to Mario Van Peebles under water, then attacks the boat Michael is on.  This creates a bit of a vibe thing with Ellen who, I guess, can sense the shark attacking…?  Whatever, this is a pretty good looking shark compared to the first movie:

“Om nom nom nom…  Don’t mind me, folks. My doctor says I need more boat fiber in my diet.  Nom nom nom.”

When the shark stops attacking, Ellen kind of snaps out of her little connection with the beast.  She tries to tell Hoagie that nothing’s wrong with her, but he doesn’t buy that for a second.  To prove she is okay to Hoagie, and that she’s crazy to the audience, she instantly starts dancing with some islanders and asks him to join her.  That night, Michael worriedly watches his mom come home with Hoagie and spies that they are pretty cozy with one another.  But Carla flings her panties at him and tells him she’ll take his mind off things.

Ew.  Dude’s checking out the guy who is trying to get some muff from his mom.  Stop with the sexy talk, Carla.  Jeez.

Although, Michael Caine in a silly party hat is enough to get the ladies.

There’s all sorts of odd sex talk in this movie.  Anytime Jake (Van Peebles) is with his girlfriend, he can’t not talk about fucking.  That even carries over to Michael and Carla as seen at the New Year’s party.  All this happens while Ellen is at the table with Hoagie who is pretty much just kinda slipping into Ellen’s hangar with no turbulence whatsoever if you catch my drift.  Jesus Christ guys…  Michael’s mom is right there while you all talk about getting laid ALL THE TIME.

Ellen tells Michael, that despite his reservations about Hoagie, she enjoys his company and is moving on from Sean’s death and refusing to believe that a shark is actually following their family.  Michael decides it’s probably not a good idea to tell him about the shark he and Jake ran into earlier.  At least some of these bullshit lines and exposition is being scored by The Jets’ “You Got It All”.  So there’s that.  Add that to the positive column.

In a move that I’m sure will not have any negative consequence whatsoever, Jake convinces Michael to take a few days away from tagging the conch shells they study to look into that shark that’s swimming about.  Between the shark possibly following the Brody family members around, and Ellen being kooky crazy, her trying to score Hoagie, and TWO sexy scenes for Michael and Carla during the course of the run time, I must ask…  What the fuck is this movie about?

Hoagie’s advances on Ellen leads to them kissing which has Ellen take her eyes off the prize and not stay as attuned to the shark business as she had been.  She also has a really weird talk with her daughter-in-law about not knowing what will happen next between her and Hoagie.  Ellen, babe…  You’ve had relationships.  You were married and had two kids.  Presumably, your husband didn’t die that long ago considering the second movie, chronologically took place less than a decade ago.  Why don’t you know about sex?

Things start to go south when Jake builds this thing that will track the shark’s heartbeat and fires it into the shark when they have a close encounter with it.  Jake’s refusal to let the shark go nearly results in Michael being killed by it.  Considering your pal’s brother was just killed by a shark, and the fact that great whites are not native to the Bahamas, do you think this is a good idea, Jake?  C’mon, Jake.  You were one of the better parts of this movie and now I’m starting to question that.

“Om nom nom…  Don’t mind me, guys.  My doctor says I need more protein in my diet. Nom nom nom.”

Despite the attack, Michael goes back into the water to face his fears based on some sort of weird obsession now he has with what he’s seen and what’s happened to his family recently.  This causes Michael and Jake to be late in returning to the beach for Carla’s art show where the granddaughter almost gets eaten by the shark as it attacks the riders of a banana boat.

Pissed and determined, Ellen decides she is going to take on the shark herself…?

I feel like this movie was unfinished.  It’s uneven with all the romance/sex stuff and it almost follows in Ellen’s own erratic behavior.  All it took was for her to see the shark (granted, it did almost eat her granddaughter) and she decides she’s going to sail out to the ocean and fight the shark herself.  Michael and Jake’s story is fleshed out.  Carla is like the 8th person in the cast or something so she’s there to serve her purpose.  Michael Caine has his part but, frankly, he’s not super effective.  When Jake and Michael were doing their thing, Ellen was pushed to the backseat of the plot.  I feel like there’s about 15 minutes of stuff that could have existed that would have rounded out her story to get an idea of what she was dealing with while everyone else had their own story play out.

But fuck all that noise.  She’s just going to sail out to ocean and offer herself up to the shark as a sacrifice to the shark gods.  I shit you not.  She basically goes to commit suicide by way of shark.  Just in the nick of time Hoagie, Michael, and Jake show up to save Ellen.  The shark immediately attacks Hoagie and takes his plane underwater.  He somehow survives without anyone, including us, seeing or knowing how.  Michael and Jake rig up a device that, coupled with what Jake implanted already, will confuse the shark and drive him crazy to the point that they may be able to defeat it.  However, when trying to force the device down the shark’s throat, Jake gets it pretty bad.

Um…  I’m not terribly sure Mario Van Peebles wasn’t for real eaten by a shark during the course of making this movie.

Ellen starts having flashbacks to things in the first movie and previously seen in this movie that she was not present for and steers the boat straight for the shark.  Michael uses the device to cause the shark to lunge out of the water screaming – yes, the shark lets out roars of pain because sharks do that (they don’t really).  Ellen stabs the shark with the boat which causes it to… explode?  Sure whatever, blow the fucker up.  Everyone survives – even Jake.  Michael asks Jake what we are all asking, “The hell are you doing alive, huh?”  Ellen gets on a plane and Hoagie flies her home.  The end.

The end?  That’s it?  That was all there was to it?  Oof.  Seriously?  Okay.  I guess.

This movie is a notoriously classic example of a bad sequel.  It’s pretty much the punchline to every joke you’ve ever seen in a movie about endless sequels within a franchise.  This is probably more derided than horror movie franchises.  What’s interesting is that the movie still made over $50 Million at the box office.  Yeah.  This piece of shit was successful upon release.  It was the least profitable and with the declining profits and even worse reviews in each of the subsequent installments, Universal finally pulled the plug on the series.

Another interesting thing about this movie kinda goes back to something I said about how it felt incomplete.  In the novelization of the film, there was an entire subplot excised from the finished script about the Brody family having some sort of rivalry with a voodoo priestess or something and that’s how the shark has gained enough targeting sentience to specifically attack those in and around the family.  That’s a bonkers idea, but I kinda love it.  I wish that survived all the way to the final product.  It also helps explain why Ellen has that connection to the shark, and why Michael claims she’s believing in some cockamamie voodoo about the shark purposefully killing Sean at the beginning.

Oh well…  That wraps up this week’s B-Movie Enema feature.  Happy 30th birthday this week, Jaws: The Revenge!  You will forever be a massively famous trashy ass sequel.  Whether people talk about crappy sequels to series that lasted too long, or making fun of your poster’s tagline, “This time it’s personal!”, you’ll forever be famous.  Another pretty famous sequel is coming up next week as I take a look at another fourth film in a franchise that may have outstayed its welcome.  It also happens to be the worst mainstream superhero film ever made.

Yup, Cannon Films’ Superman IV: The Quest for Peace is also turning 30 this summer, so it’s time for me to cover that as well.  Until then, don’t be afraid to go into the water…  Because sharks are not sentient murderers who will target and single out your family for their dinners.

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