The original Jaws is a better movie than Mother Theresa is a person. That’s either the most or least controversial thing I’ve ever said, depending on who you are, but I’ll stand by it. The sequels, though, range from pointless to a garbage fire in an open sewer filled with skunks who all have exploding bowel syndrome. Let’s talk about the bowel explodiest of all the franchise with Jaws: The Revenge, shall we?
Tagline: This time it’s personal.
More Accurate Tagline: This time it’s nonsensical.
Guilty Party: Whatever dead-eyed mid-level executive who, like a shark, could smell the few droplets of blood clinging to the franchise and decided to wring that shit out over the baby birds’ nest of the American viewing public.
Synopsis: Roy Scheider had enough sense to call it quits after the first two movies, so Chief Brody is dead. His wife, Ellen (Lorraine Gary in her final role) still lives on Amity Island with her son Sean, who has become a cop like his dad. She’s also convinced that, despite the fact that Chief Brody died of a heart attack, the shark got him. With those kinds of critical thinking skills, I’m thinking Ellen’s later life is filled with a lot of reposting Breitbart articles on Facebook.
Sean gets eaten by a shark, because at this pint, there’s a shark mafia with a hit out on the Brody family. The other son, Michael (Lance Guest, a.k.a. The Last Starfighter), now a marine biologist in the Bahamas, returns for the funeral and convinces Ellen to spend Christmas with him and his family. He points out that the water in the Bahamas is too warm for great whites, which ironically marks the one time this series said anything accurate about sharks.
But, you know, this is a Jaws movie, and it would be perverse if the next hour was devoted to, say, counting snails and watching the elderly date. Which is why that’s exactly the plot of the next hour of the movie. Yep, Ellen starts romancing local pilot Hoagie (Michael Caine), who is also a degenerate gambler and is heavily implied to be a cocaine smuggler. Which… seriously, movie? Also, Michael and his partner Jake (Mario van Peebles) count conchs for their graduate work. It’s riveting stuff.
Then, finally, the goddamn shark shows up. Jake is psyched because fuck snails. He wants to study the giant monster shark who shouldn’t even be living there. Michael agrees, but doesn’t want Ellen to find out the shark literally stalked her on vacation. That’d be super awkward if they ran into each other at a social gathering, though, right?
…which is exactly what happens. The shark shows up at a big beach party and eats a lady. Then Michael has to come clean that oh, yeah, there’s totally a monster shark in the water. Uh, Merry Christmas, mom?
Ellen predictably freaks out, steals Jake’s boat, and decides to fight the shark. Somehow. I really don’t know what she has planned here. Michael and Jake pile into Hoagie’s plane to find her, and when they do, Hoagie radios in for a rescue, then crashes the plane in the water.
All three of them manage to make the short swim onto the boat (despite the killer shark in the water), and have to MacGyver together a solution. This involves using strobe lights to make the shark jump out of the water, and then Lorraine spears it through the neck with the bowsprit. Yay! Christmas is saved!
Life-Changing Subtext: Wildlife is at the core of most marital and health problems.
Defining Quote: Michael: “I’ve always wanted to make love to an angry welder.”
Gonna leave that one delightfully free of context.
Standout Performance: The shark is incredible. Somehow managing to look worse than the famously phony shark puppet in the first movie, this thing wobbles through the water on a clearly visible rail, and looks like the kind of great white whose chromosomes are only working about half the time. But that’s not the best part. The best part is this fucking thing can roar like a lion. Underwater.
What’s Wrong: Okay, you know how every Jaws movie ends? The shark gets killed. Despite this, Ellen Brody is somehow convinced that the same shark has been hunting her family. How is this even possible? The writer of the novelization figured this out and attempted to patch the plot hole.
…by making a voodoo priest mad at Michael and cursing him with a shark. Yeah. That’s a thing that happened. Somehow it never made it to the screen. We’re clearly not meant to be happy.
Also, avoiding sharks might be the easiest thing ever. I’m doing it right now and I’m not even trying.
Flash of Competence: A couple times the movie shows scenes from the original, in an effort to capture that magic. Those flashbacks are competent. Everything else, not so much.
Best Scenes: There’s no easy way to put this, so I’ll come right out and say it: Ellen Brody is an X-Man. She has a psychic connection to the shark. Yep, she can sense the monster like it’s her long-lost sister on Endor or something. Maybe that’s why she stole the boat in the final bit. She was looking for a tearful reunion before facing Darth Vader together.
She also has a flashback to when Chief Brody killed the shark (you know, the one she thinks she’s fighting now) in the first movie. Remember how Ellen was there? No, you don’t, because Brody was alone on a sinking ship at the time. So yeah, Ellen Brody is an X-Man.
My favorite thread in the movie might be the fact that whatever the shark bites, or wherever it goes, there’s blood in the water. There’s blood before it attacks anyone. After biting a plank of wood on the side of a boat, there’s blood everywhere like someone sacrificed a fatted calf. The only way this makes sense is if the shark is Bleeding Gums Murphy.
Transcendent Moment: In one cut of the movie, the shark explodes, marking the exact moment Michael Bay sprang into existence like Athena from the head of Zeus.
Jaws: The Revenge is a classic of bad cinema for a reason. Just don’t let it ruin the excellent first movie for you.