One of the scariest things about "Piranha 3D" is seeing how much Richard Dreyfuss has aged since he starred in the horror classic "Jaws" that inspired this ridiculous remake.
This time it's not a rogue great white shark terrorizing a beach-side tourist town, but schools of hideous little fish who look like Abe Vigoda. With mouths full of ugly sharp teeth, they have their way with hordes of spring break girls gone wild, and the horny dorks who will follow them anywhere.
Set at Arizona's "Lake Victoria," the piranha are supposedly a prehistoric species set loose by a seismic rift in the lake floor. Dreyfuss is looking a little prehistoric himself as the old coot fishing as the film begins, soon to become the fishies' first meal.
Elizabeth Shue sure looks great in a uniform, starring as the town's sheriff, and her kids - especially Steven R. McQueen as the teenage big brother - figure prominently in what there is of a plot.
Actually, for director Alexandre Aja, the plot is just an excuse to get from one scene to another of topless young women. The early scenes seem to be a public service announcement on the dangers of drinking tequila while wearing a bikini. But by film's end, it's fish gone wild, chomping all that sunburned flesh in a literal blood bath interminably filling the last reel.
The only mystery to this so-called thriller was what was I doing watching it?
Blame it on The Associated Press. Now, it's not as though I haven't had my disagreements with AP film reviewer Christy Lemire in the past. Many's the time I've had to resist the impulse to write a correction or retraction after running one or another of her reviews in Scene, and then actually seeing the movie.
Usually, as in a movie like "Across the Universe," it was my humble opinion that her not-so-humble opinion totally missed the point. She didn't get it.
This time was just the opposite. Christy loved "Piranha 3D"! And she wasn't the only one. The critics swarmed all over it like minnows on chum. They saw "Piranha 3D" not as crass, crude cheesy exploitation, but as a tongue-in-cheek, or tooth-in-cheek, homage to "Jaws" and screen horror ever since.
Silly critics. They didn't realize that film audiences looking for summer camp last weekend would choose "Vampires Suck" instead.
And silly me for listening to them. It didn't even crack the top 5 at the box office. The lesson here -the humbling motto that regularly brings me back to my senses -is Hey, What Do Critics Know?
Worse, "Piranha 3D" was hardly wise viewing on the eve of my annual Portuguese Man-of-War Memorial Swim along Baldwin Beach. I mark major holidays - as well as minor ones, or just nice afternoons - with memorial swims from one end of Baldwin to the other. This one coincides with the O-bon dance at the nearby Renzai Zen Mission every August.
It was there, years ago, that I had my fateful encounter with a jellyfish that made my neck swell up like a goiter and left me with a scar a little like Clint Eastwood's noose rope burn in "Hang 'Em High."
It was a middle-aged variation of "Spider-Man." Klutzy guy gets toxic bite and develops new powers. "Jellyman." My nervous system briefly got very sharp and developed 360-degree receptivity. I felt like I could catch a mosquito in midair with my tongue. That went away, but the wild animal juice in my veins didn't disappear entirely.
Next thing I knew, I was out buying a chain saw and a pickup truck.
So among all the things it celebrates, the Renzai Zen Mission bon dance marks the night I acquired my personal aumakua.
Of course bon dances commemorate many more things than that. One of the most colorful and distinctive signatures of Maui culture, these gatherings at the island's Buddhist hangwanjis bring together dancers in meticulous kimonos, from the very young to the very old, to circle a central tower in synchronized unity to mesmerizing music and drumming.
The last one is Saturday at Azeka Shopping Center. While bon dances are a product of a particular culture, adding glimpses of plantation life on Maui to the 500-year tradition that began in Japan, they are also reminders of how everything winds up getting shared on an island. Even, or especially, cultures.
At their core, bon dances are a way of honoring and celebrating lost ancestors. Although I've been attended bon dances since arriving on Maui, drawn by the drumming, the music and the chow fun the way Richard Dreyfuss was drawn by mysterious forces in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," I've never learned to dance.
I make do with swimming instead, building my own memorials in the water, trying to avoid close encounters of the stinging kind.
* Contact Rick Chatenever at firstname.lastname@example.org.