Main Cast: Ian Ziering, Tara Reid

Director: Anthony C. Ferrante

Lulu Pigg, my tap therapist has finally whipped my legs back into shape and I am raring to get back on the boards or spend some time in the studio making a picture again.  I, like all Hollywood stars, know just how fleeting fame can be when you’re between projects and I must get my name back in the trades and my face back in front of the great American public or I could end up at Atascadero like poor Norma Desmond.  I telephoned Joseph, my manager, and Madame Rose, my publicist, and told them both that they better get cracking  or I would be quite cross with them.  Joseph called me back with some ideas for guest starring roles on popular TV series.  There seems to be something suitable for me in the next season of American Horror Story as a tap dancing carnie who enters into a provocative relationship with Jessica Lange.

Madame Rose managed to get me a couple of VIP passes for a red carpet event at Grauman’s Chinese celebrating the end of the current season of Game of Thrones and Normy and I will be there dressed to the nines for the photo opportunity and to meet the producers and see what might be appropriate for stars of our magnitude in season 5.  I would love to play a few scenes with Peter Dinklage, especially if they will include a few specialty dance numbers for the two of us.  He’s such a talented man that I am sure he can tap with the best of them and from the few episodes I have seen, the show needs more dance numbers and a toe tapping upbeat score. I wonder if Jerry Herman is available?

Life is a wee bit dull at the moment so I repaired to the home theater to find something exciting which might put a little zing in my life.  I have recently discovered that in my absence, Normy has equipped our system with the ability to stream films from a variety of sources, such as Netflix, so I no longer have to make do with just my ‘to view’ pile of DVDs.  Now there are literally thousands of movies at the touch of a button or two.  I tried to find one of my old titles, but there seems to be a dearth of Vicki Lester films available; I shall have to have Joseph get hold of Netflix management and rectify that situation.  As a next best thing, I scrolled through a section entitled ‘suggested for Vicki Lester’ and came across a film of which I had not heard, entitled Sharknado, that was apparently originally made for something called Shark Week on the SyFy channel.  Having once done a B programmer about sharks myself, CPA Sharky, in which I played a lady accountant who stumbles upon nefarious genetic experiments at an aquatic amusement park, I decided this might be just the ticket for a slow paced afternoon.

Ian Ziering by April Killingsworth

Ian Ziering looked like this in 2006. And in 1989. And in 2014, at age 50. It’s a mystery.

Sharknado takes place in modern day Los Angeles, a place, if this film is to be believed, inhabited entirely by aspiring models and actors who wear minimal clothing.  Following a completely incomprehensible prolog that has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the film, we learn that LA is being threatened by an approaching hurricane and that the storm is driving what appears to be all the sharks in the Pacific ocean before it.  Our plucky hero, Fin Shepard (get it?) who owns a restaurant on Santa Monica pier , is worried about the effect the storm may have on his business (Fin is played by Ian Ziering who famously portrayed a teenager on Beverly Hills 90210 when he was something like 30 years old) .  We also meet his pal Baz (Jaason Simmons), his waitress Nova (Cassie Scerbo) and the old drunk George (John Heard).   Ominous clouds gather.  The revelers on the beach remain bathed in sunshine, but every shot of the ocean shows furious waves whipping their way shoreward.  Soon twelve foot sharks are swimming in eighteen inches of water without being seen and are ripping the limbs off stupefied extras.  When someone yells shark, the extras run back and forth on the beach yelling without ever bothering to actually exit the beach area.  Soon a waterspout breaks out of the storm, strong enough to remove the pier’s Ferris wheel from its moorings, but not so strong as to actually disturb any of the extras’ loosely tangled shampoo commercial hair.  But wait, the waterspout carries the sharks ashore with it and our plucky band of heroes is busy stabbing them with pool cues and bludgeoning them with bar stools as they come sailing through the windows.  (I’m not making this up.)

Our protagonists, after watching the destruction of the pier, pile in a car along with the bar stool in order to get further inland and so that Fin can make sure his ex-wife (Tara Reid) and children (Heather Jocelyn Blair, Chuck Hittinger) are safe. Then things start to get complicated. People get stuck in drainage ditches, sharks fall from the skies into swimming pools, we spend fifteen minutes watching a group of teenagers with an annoying bus driver (Robbie Rist – just as irritating as an adult as he was when he played cousin Oliver on The Brady Bunch) get hauled up the side of a bridge, rising waters flood houses without touching the driveway, people throw bombs into tornadoes and the LA Planetarium seems to have morphed into a combination mental ward and old folks home that has an airport in the backyard.  No, I couldn’t make any sense of it either.

I suppose there is a script (credited to someone with the improbable name of Thunder Levin) as there is dialog coming out of characters mouths but I could not follow it in terms of either plot or theme.  It seems to exist mainly as a reason for CGI and rubber sharks to fly through the air with the greatest of ease before chomping on something.   The director (Anthony C. Ferrante) keeps things moving and uses some interesting camera angles to disguise how low budget the production actually is , but doesn’t seem to have a clue as to how to actually get a coherent performance out of any of his actors.

Most of the cast seem to know that they are in a terrible piece of trash but they seem to have been told to play it with conviction, earnestness and absolutely straight.  The only one who gets that a certain dollop of sly humor is needed to make this sort of film work is John Heard.  Once upon a time he was one of the more promising leading men of stage and screen.  What happened?  Unfortunately, he becomes shark food rather early on in the proceedings and what little wit the film had goes with him.  Ziering and Reid try, but there is only so much they can do with preposterous situations and bad dialog.  Most of the rest of the supporting cast is terrible.  Chuck Hittinger may have cheekbones to die for, but I’ve heard better line readings from Beverly Hills Elementary’s third grade performance of The Princess and the Pea. 

The film could have been saved if the special effects were any good. Unfortunately, they are bargain basement.  Shots don’t match in terms of light and color.  The CGI was obviously done by the Taiwanese animators who provide the animations for news casts and I’ve not seen such obviously fake latex work since Belle Poitrine’s last picture.   Time after time, I turned to Princess Anastasia, my cat, and asked her why I was even trying to make it to the end.   Perhaps I just wanted to see how many of the laws of physics the producers could violate.  Actually, the end credits are the best moment of the movie as there is a rather funny song accompanying which gets the tone of what the film should have been right.

I cannot recommend the film to anyone and have no idea why it became a pop culture phenomenon which has apparently inspired a completely unnecessary sequel.  Unless it is called Sharknado II: Electric Sharkaloo and is a musical, I plan on skipping it.

Ferris wheel rolling.  Sea-Doo rescue.  Shark impalement.  Shark frying.  Shark puree.  Gratuitous older lady with walker.  Connect Four game. Chainsaw juggling.  Burning swimming pool.  Gratuitous news reporter eating.

To learn more about Mrs. Norman Maine, visit our introduction here, and see her back catalog of reviews here.

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