Welcome to our new “The Soft Spot” category. This category is designed to highlight box office flops and oft-hated movies that, to us, have a special place in our hearts and minds. Kinda like guilty pleasures but without the guilt.
Jaws 3D (1983)
Cost to make: $18 million. Box Office returns: $88 million.
I usually tell people without hesitation that Spielberg’s 1975 original Jaws is my favorite movie of all time. I can write all day about why that summer blockbuster is my de facto best movie but I won’t—I’m rather in a hurry actually. Plus I’m not here today to wax poetic about Jaws and how Quint always reminds me of my dad. Nope. Today I’m giving some love to the 3rd worst Jaws movie—Jaws 3-D!
I probably watched Jaws 3 as much, if not, more than the original Jaws growing up, thanks to timing and cable TV. I was born after Jaws and by the time I was cognitive enough to like and understand giant killer fish movies, Jaws 3 was already on every day on HBO. I’m not positive but I’m pretty sure I saw the original first since my old man was a huge fan of it. I remember I watched the shit out of a VHS tape he made that had Jaws, Jaws 2 and Jaws 3. Like I said, he reminded me of Quint—mustache, wavy hair, grizzled, hunter (we had pelts and fish on the walls that he killed for the sake of fun and food as well as shark teeth) and also armed forces veteran. He even sort of could pass for a younger Robert Shaw. I wonder if I tried hard to look like Quint if I could? Anyway as you can see Jaws is deeply connected to me from such a young age.
Which is why I always give the franchise a huge pass. Even if they don’t deserve it. Jaws 2 is fine. It’s a typical Hollywood sloppy-second sequel. Jaws: The Revenge is unwatchable actually so I really can’t defend it much. But Jaws 3 is kinda special and unique for numerous reasons. I just rewatched it over the July 4th weekend and realized that if ever a movie deserved to be “enhanced” with CGI corrections, Jaws 3 is the perfect candidate. If they just erased all the silly, out-dated and stagnant 3D effects and replaced them with real footage of CGI sharks then it would be fine. In fact it would be great.
For those of you unfamiliar with the movie I’ll give a brief synopsis. The film takes place in SeaWorld Florida where the Brody boys—Michael and Sean—happen to work at. A shark accidentally gets into the park’s gates where it starts it’s usual shark shenanigans. The park’s staff try to capture and nurse the shark and keep it as an exhibit but it happens to die. Unbeknownst to the staff, another shark—the first shark’s mother to be exact—is also in the park it also needs to be dealt with. Around this time SeaWorld is also celebrating the opening of their new underwater tunnel exhibit where guests could freely walk to view marine life.
I happen to feel that having the shark attack movie set in SeaWorld is a novel idea. However, having this franchise centered around the Brody family was a terrible idea. For whatever reason, Universal thought they couldn’t make a killer shark franchise unless someone from the Brody brood was involved. All 4 films have at least 2 Brody’s in them. If they introduced a whole new cast of characters at SeaWorld that had to deal with the Great White then I would also think this film would work better. I also wonder why Michael and Sean Brody who nearly died numerous times from a Great White shark would even want to step within 2 inches of ocean water ever again much less work with marine life is beyond me. But having more marine life with more marine biologists and experts is a great idea and that certainly makes Jaws 3 more unique in a way. It’s squandered on a lackluster script but hey, they tried. It’s better than the first idea they had who was to make this a National Lampoon’s style spoof called “Jaws 3, People 0.”
But the cast itself is great for 1983. Dennis Quaid plays Michael Brody. And who didn’t think Dennis Quaid was cool back then? It’s been awhile since Quaid did anything and I always thought he should’ve been a bigger star as he got older. Strangely enough I think Randy Quaid has made better more recent movies and became a bigger star as he got older. Anyway. Louis Gossett, Jr plays the SeaWorld equivalent to Mayor Vaughn being bull-headed and always picking the benefit to the park over peoples’ livelihood. And again, who has a problem with Gossett Jr? Another great actor that was in his prime back in the 80s. But also again, where is he now? And you can never ever ever go wrong with a movie starring Lea Thompson. Always and forever love her. And of course in this, she wears a bikini, so yeah. What were we talking about?
I could go on with other ideas to making this film better but I’d rather not waste my or your time. OK, just one idea. Despite being set in SeaWorld where there’s actual Orcas—the natural enemy of sharks—there should’ve been an attempt to have an Orca vs. Great White scene. But maybe because the 1977 film Orca already had a short scene just like this probably changed their minds. Oh well.
The film has dolphins though and they save some humans at the end. So that’s cool. What’s not cool is the rather silly finale with Dennis Quaid and Bess Armstrong practically having a love-fest with the jumping dolphins after the shark is defeated. This scene is ridiculously lame. It’s even more out-of-place when you consider that they are more concerned about the dolphins well-being more than the other 3-4 people that just died.
So yeah, Jaws 3 is a stinker no doubt about it but damnit I still like it. It has its goofy charm and the nostalgia I have for it is still strong. I can’t help it. But as I get older, I’m appreciating Jaws 3 more for what it could’ve been more so than what it failed to do. If only they spent a few hundred bucks fixing the effects. Maybe I should start a Kickstarter campaign. I’ll look into that. Stay tuned.