August 23, 2010

The Peculiar Case of Piranha 3D

If there is one problem I have with Piranha 3D, it's that I didn't get to see when I was 13. I would have cooked up the greatest scheme ever to get into this bad boy, including but not limited to, buying a ticket to see Eat Pray Love with huge grin on my face, paying some 17 year old bro to be my "cousin," and then swiping some 3D glasses from the bin. None the less, I saw it, and even though I wasn't 13, I loved it. And the peculiar thing is lots of savored it too.

On Rotten Tomatoes, it's hovering at a mean 81% fresh rating with a large pack of remarkably positive reviews. How can a film that features piranhas eating and regurgitating a penis be so enjoyed? If you believe the critics it's because it's simple, trashy, fun pure and simple.

However, I think something deeper is going on here. The film, directed by Alexandre Aja, who is French, is ultimately a bloody satire of American culture. Don't believe me? The plot is about a  hard working government official (Elisabeth Shue) who must try to save her family and the brain-dead spring breakers of her town from a massive nature based threat. The piranhas represent global warming, oil shortages, and any other natural problem you can cook up. The Spring breakers represent American cultural excess. Man it's tough being in charge when the environment and the culture don't cooperate. Jerry O'Connell represents God, just kidding.

I'm not the only one thinking about the film this way. In an interview with Cinematical, Aja shares why he set the film at Spring Break.
 I have always felt a little bit of that balance between attraction and repulsion of spring break, and doing more research, I thought it was a really good metaphor for American itself – that spring break, by being that week of excess in a very puritanical society, feels like America. 
Piranha 3D is not a movie for our times, it won't define a generation, well, I hope it doesn't. But it's not that stupid either. Perhaps it's greatest downfall is that the only people who are seeing it are the exact people who the film is making fun of. After all, I was the one who bought the overpriced $18 dollar movie ticket, $10 dollars worth of movie food, and dragged all my friends to movie all in the name of some naked chicks, blood, and fish.

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