Hands down and body parts floating, the most irresistibly sick movie in years is Piranha 3D, which should be retitled Piranha 3D, Double-D and C for all the topless cuties director Alexandre Aja feeds the fish and audience.
This flick is Guignol at its grandest, with possibly the most gallons of fake blood ever smeared across the screen. Each crimson drop has something in mind besides nausea, and that's the rush of giving viewers a better reason to gag. I'm ashamed to admit how much Piranha 3D made me shake with laughter, or what exactly prompted it.
Like the almost final words of a sexist pig deserving what he gets (and where he gets it), followed by a shocking sight gag with no fewer than five punch lines. Or else a snapped cable shearing a sunbather diagonally so her left side slowly slides off. Even without bloodshed, you can't beat a nude underwater opera ballet featuring misplaced pole dancers holding their breath for several minutes.
That's entertainment, of a sort.
Piranha 3D is inspired by a 1978 grindhouse hit that itself was a goof of Jaws. Aja quickly gets that trivia out of the way with Richard Dreyfuss dressed in his Jaws costume in a motorboat, fishing on a lake. He gets a bite then gets bitten, after he's sucked into a whirlpool created by a seismic disturbance unleashing prehistoric piranhas. It's an astonishing sequence considering Aja's $24 million budget, proving 3D is more than flying dragons and 'toons.
Like Jaws, Piranha 3D is set in a vacation hot spot during a busy holiday, in this case spring break at Lake Victoria, Ariz. Elisabeth Shue plays the sheriff nobody takes seriously until it's too late. Her son Jake (Steven R. McQueen) is a nice kid roped into assisting a Joe Francis kind of guy (Jerry O'Connell) taping another Wild Wild Girls video during the weekend.
The latter subplot allows Aja to scan the party boats for flashers and strap a nude woman into a parasail so she can become piranha fondue. One thing you notice after a while is those thousands of gnashing teeth never miss snipping the straps of a bikini. They do prefer munching eyeballs and lower appendages, the better for Aja to display relatively intact upper torsos with entrails dragging.
Then just when it seems Piranha 3D can't take the breasts-and-blood routine any farther, Aja stages a massacre during a "Dying to Get Wet" bash to make viewers reel and hurl. Flesh-eating fish are only the beginning. Steering a speedboat through dozens of swimmers already maimed and screaming isn't all there is, either.
But there isn't a mean bone in Piranha 3D's mangled bodies. This is giddy, gory and gleefully tasteless fun that drive-in icon Joe Bob Briggs would tell you to check out in a heartbeat. Me, too.
Steve Persall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8365. Read his blog, Reeling in the Years, at tampabay.com/blogs/movies.