Directed by Joseph Sargent
“This Time It’s Personal!”…and all Jaws fans should all be personally offended by it.
Welcome to 1987…the year of horrible sequels! There were some fresh film ideas during 1987 with Robocop, The Lost Boys, Predator, The Witches of Eastwick, Full Metal Jacket, Wall Street, Near Dark, Spaceballs, and Lethal Weapon. Then there were the heavy amount of poor sequels the year brought us as well: Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, House II: The Second Story, Teen Wolf Too, Death Wish 4: The Crackdown, The Living Daylights, and Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise (Evil Dead II gets a pass, of course because it is awesome!). Rounding out the list of sequel failures was Universal’s attempt to continue the Jaws franchise with the absolutely absurd Jaws The Revenge.
After the Amity sheriff Sean Brody (Mitchell Anderson) is killed by another great white who popped into the area, Ellen Brody (the returning Lorraine Gary) believes that the shark came back to kill her son in retaliation for Scheider’s Brody character killing the sharks in the first two Jaws films. Her older son Mike (Lance Guest) brings her down to spend time away from the pain of Amity in the Bahamas, where he lives with his wife Carla (Karen Young) and daughter Thea (Judith Barsi).
The shark follows them down to the Bahamas because it actually does have a score to settle with all of the Brodys. No, this is not a joke. Making matters worse is that Mike works as a diver, so the shark makes its presence known when it unsuccessfully attacks him. In turn, he keeps the shark as a secret so Ellen does not freak out. Meanwhile, Mario Van Peebles and his horrible attempt at a Jamaican accent helps Mike try to catch the shark and Michael Caine shows up to try to get his groove on with Ellen. All of this happens while Jaws tries to get his “revenge”!
The sad thing about this film is that the opening attack scene is actually filmed and staged very well. Sean Brody’s death is one of the coolest and most brutal attacks in the franchise’s history. It occurs at night and happens suddenly without the standard “Dun-Dun” theme. Instead, we hear the distant voices of Amity Christmas carolers singing in the background. It is actually a bit haunting to hear that while Sean gets his arm ripped off and then is knocked into the water for the finishing chomp while the red light from the buoy illuminates the ocean water.
Unfortunately, this is where the film begins to go downhill as it is revealed that the shark set a trap for Sean, when the wood he was trying to remove from the buoy is shown to have shark teeth marks on it. So a creature that lives under the sea with below average intelligence learned that Sean grew up to become the sheriff and would be the one to heed the call to remove a piece of wood from the buoy because everyone else in the department would be unavailable because of other events happening that night. Therefore, the shark concocts a master plan to drag a piece of wood and jam it onto the buoy knowing Sean would come out to remove it. Yes – this is the type of logic that the rest of the film tries to convey and it only gets worse from there on out when the shark follows the family to the Bahamas, in record time for a fish swimming from the Martha Vineyard area no less, because it knows exactly where they are heading. Oh vey!
Another detriment to the film is the focus being on Lorraine Gary’s Ellen Brody character. Gary was a secondary character in the first two films and never that important in the grand scheme of things, but since she was married to the Universal studio head at the time and no one else wanted to come back to the lifeless franchise, she got the nod as main star. Then there is poor Lance Guest. Whatever traction Guest had going for him was unfortunately squashed after this bomb ala Michael Beck going from The Warriors to Xanadu. And Michael Caine admittedly did this film strictly for the money and even missed accepting his Academy Award for Hannah and Her Sisters. He is quoted as saying, "I have never seen it, but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific." So that pretty much sums up the interest of his involvement.
Lord knows that Sargent really tried to tie this fourth sequel into the original as much as he could. Examples include the first few minutes set in Amity, Lee Fierro as Mrs. Kitner from the original having a cameo and a picture of Roy Scheider displayed in the police department. Speaking of Scheider, he did not want to come back for this installment after he learned he was scripted to die in the opening scene, not Sean. Jaws loyalists would have burned the theaters down all over the nation if they saw Sheriff Brody manhandled the way Sean was in that scene. So they wrote him off as having a heart attack due to his first two experiences with the shark. Lame. Another way that Sargent tried to tie things into the original film was have a heap of flashbacks from Jaws courtesy of Ellen, where we constantly see Brody kill off the shark as well from the original's ending as well during one scene where Guest’s daughter mocks everything he does at the kitchen table like Scheider and Jay Mello did in the first one. She also has flashbacks of Sean’s demise. These are all huge errors since her character was not around to see most of these events transpire! How the heck is she going to know what exactly happened? Finally, a random woman pulls little Thea out of the shark’s reach and sacrifices herself in the process, much like the man did for little Mike Brody in the first one. Again, this is Jaws The Revenge where everything and anything is possible. As much as this tries to be as connected to the original as possible, all it does is cause you to want to pop in a DVD of Jaws and watch that one again instead pretending that this was ever made.
Jaws was filmed in 1975 and the unreliable shark prop that plagued most of the production still looks real enough to strike fear in the hearts of moviegoers. Fast forward to 1987 and the shark in this movie looks the fakest of all models in the series, including in comparison to the ones in Jaws 3-D! In fact, this Revenge shark looks like nothing more than a giant muppet with teeth that has been submerged underwater. That’s right, it is Muppet Jaws! You can also see cables, seams and cranes in many shots. It's like the filmmakers weren't even trying to hide the fact that the shark was a major fake!
Revenge also contains the lowest body count of any film in the series. You get a lot of blood when it happens, but otherwise, our shark is pretty picky when it comes to his meals. It only attacks the Brodys and the people it does get its teeth on completely happens by accident.
If there are any positives to the fourth one, it would be the cool over the water POV camera shots Sargent installs for the beast. Also, the remix of John Williams score is a pretty enhancing soundtrack. Admittedly, these are the only two worthy things about the film. Unless you count the shark constantly roaring, Caine getting out of the water with completely dry clothes and the ending. But they are “great” for the wrong reasons by being unintentionally hilarious.
Speaking of the ending...want another kick to your shins? After you dredge through this horrible film, you are treated with the most confusing climaxes in cinematic history. You have no idea what happens thanks to the awful editing when your villain just dies. That’s it, game over. Years later when the film made it to TV and VHS, Universal just could not let a turkey be a turkey. No, they had to add in a narration at the beginning explaining that what you are about to see is all a coincidence. Nice try at backtracking, Universal. Then depending on what version you happen to catch, the shark either dies by exploding when the boat rams it or a more graphic scene showing the boat spearing it in the head. Plus, one of the characters that perished in the theatrical version miraculously survives.
In the end, Jaws: The Revenge was made to surpass Jaws 3-D as never having existed when in fact this one should not have existed either. In a sea of 1987’s bad sequels, this could very well rank as the worse and unfortunately left a bad taste in many moviegoers mouths concerning the whole franchise. Thus ’87 marked its end. Even the Nintendo game based on this film was better than this dreck and that is one flawed video game!
R.I.P Jaws and thanks for the bites!
|1.5 OUT OF 5 JUMPING SHARKS|