FRANCHISE REWIND: Jaws: The Revenge (1987)

Jaws: The Revenge, 1987 (Lorraine Gary) MCA/Universal

“I’ve always wanted to make love to an angry welder.”

I’ve seen Jaws: The Revenge several times over the years and it never occurred to me that this is a Christmas movie. It takes place during Christmas, or at least the start of the movie has a festive holiday feel. If Die Hard can be a Christmas movie, then so can Jaws: The Revenge. Indeed, as the younger of the Brody brothers, Sean, is being torn apart by a vengeful great white shark, carollers are practicing “The First Noel” on the shoreline, thus they are unable to hear his horrifying screams.

It’s actually kind of (I guess) unintentionally funny as Sean first loses an arm to the shark (who has cleverly lured him out to the water to fix a buoy), looks at his lack of an arm and shrieks over and over again. Rest in peace, Sean … and a flight of sharks sing thee to thy … breakfast, I-I think. Anyway, keep on rockin’! I know what I’d be thinking if I were Ellen (Lorraine Gary). Sharks, all sharks have it in for her family. Her husband, Martin, died of a heart attack. Shark did it. I know it’s not considered canon (why is that?) but Jaws 3-D saw Sean and older brother, Michael, attacked several times by a big nasty great white shark. Shark did it.

Why the Brodys didn’t immediately move to Iowa after the events of Jaws 2 I’ll never know. Maybe the shark cancelled their moving truck and unpacked their boxes. Clever bitch! Michael (Lance Guest) takes his traumatized mother to the Bahamas (I suspect this is why director Joseph Sargent agreed to make the film), where he works as a marine biologist (changed from his job in the previous movie as an underwater engineer). ‘Cuz that’s where you want to take your mother who has survived multiple shark attacks: an island! Unfortunately, wherever Ellen goes, the damned shark follows, and she seems to have developed a preternatural ability to detect when the shark is near.

Michael’s comic relief friend, affectionately named “Dead Meat” (I’m just funnin’ ya! His name is Jake.) played by Mario Van Peebles spots the shark—it has to be the same shark, and this time … it’s personal. The shark has followed what remains of the Brody clan to the Bahamas. There’s a lot to make fun of in Jaws: The Revenge but I’d like to get some praise out of the way. The cinematography is absolutely gorgeous, whether it’s the beach or a simple interior night shot. There’s a clever bit that occurs right after the opening titles in which we see a fish being cooked in a frying pan. You know that’s gonna stink up the kitchen, right? I’m not cleaning that up.

Both Peebles and Lynn Whitfield (who plays his beautiful wife, Louisa) affect some cringeworthy Caribbean accents, and I keep wanting a 7 Up. It’s the “uncola” after all. No caffeine. Never had it, never will! Jake is positively thrilled to study the great white shark, but Mike has doubts. Wouldn’t you? Meanwhile “Hoagie,” (Michael Caine) the airplane pilot who flew the Brodys to the Bahamas, courts Ellen. I think the two of them should move to Iowa together. There’s something off about the shark. The movie relies more on the puppetry of the shark than the mix of real shark footage used in the first movie. It also relies on Spielberg-photographed flashbacks from the first movie.

All this makes me want to do is watch Jaws again. This movie has the feel of a made-for-television production. I don’t know why (could be the puppetry) , but this shark seems stupid compared to the previous two. After the shark crashes a party on the beach and nearly gobbles up her granddaughter, Ellen steals a boat and seeks … wait a minute. Is it possible the “revenge” in the title refers to Ellen and not the shark? This is an entertaining, if stupid, movie, and it’s a damned sight better than Matrix Revolutions!

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