The whims of the pop-culture gods are fickle, and for some reason, they decided to anoint the crummy Syfy movie Sharknado with the Zeitgeist of the Moment award. As night follows day, Sharknado 2 was put into production, and I suppose the results won’t disappoint fans of the first film. Do such fans even exist? Or are they merely ironic fans, pretending to like the shitty movie are part of some elaborate exercise in camp? I suspect the Sharknado 2 producers dearly hope for the latter. Unfortunately, they’re trusting their audience to deliver way too much of the presumed good time.
Sharknado 2 is in on the joke, but it doesn’t quite understand how to tell a joke, which causes some significant problems. The expected winks and nods to the scenario’s ridiculousness arise with Kabuki-like precision, but devoid of any thought or wit. They simply acknowledge what they’re required to acknowledge and move on. Other pop culture references arrive as well, all of them equally tone deaf. We begin things with a ten-minute riff on “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” as Sharknado survivor Brock McHunkyButt (Ian Ziering) spots what he thinks is another shark-infested tornado outside of a plane. Pretty soon it’sinside the plan as well, forcing Brock and Former Future Ex-Mrs. HunkyButt (Tara Reid) to fight for their lives again.
That’s just the beginning of course. They land in New York, only to find a major storm front on the way (necessitating the gratuitous inclusion of Al Roker and the Today show staff in a show of solidarity with their corporate brethren). Within hours, The Big Apple fills up with poorly rendered sea water and carnivorous fish falling from the sky. The film spent a great deal of its budget shooting on actual sites like Liberty Island and the Mets stadium, as well as delivering a fair number of continuity errors along the way. (Watch the home team’s uniforms change colors on a whim!) Having said that, the setting at least delivers some personality, even if it’s just the expected tropes of gruff cabbies and floppy pizza. It’s a pity they couldn’t push those notions a little further into satire. It would have helped.
Supposedly, the film’s jovial tone makes such efforts unnecessary, as does further goofy gimmicks such as someone’s hand replaced by a buzzsaw. (Evil Dead 2 will be expecting your royalty payment in the morning kids.) That only goes so far, however. Eventually, they need to generate something more than just a nudge in the ribs, and they can’t. Call it the Snakes on a Plane effect: it stops being fun if we can see how hard you’re trying, and Sharknado 2 is so busy trying it can’t remember why it wanted to impress us in the first place.
The rest of it is SyFy Original Movie 101, with the plucky band of misfits fighting back against the monster du jour. In this case, the monsters are even lazier than normal: some of the sharks just fall on their victims instead of eating them. Not bad if that’s your thing, but pretty ridiculous otherwise. No, worse than ridiculous: boring. It’s the same old song and dance they’ve always played, with a little pizazz in the setting and a few more twinkles in the actor’s eyes. Syfy has made a pretty penny banking on that formula, but whatever magic may have been lurking there, it’s long gone by now. And the pleasures of Sharknado 2 are sparse enough without adding unreasonable expectations on top of them.