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Jaws: The Revenge (1987)

“When it killed Sean I knew with absolute certainty that it had come for him. I knew that. And I know it’s coming. I know it’s coming….”

Director: Joseph Sargent

Starring: Lorraine Gary, Lance Guest, Mario Van Peebles, Michael Caine, Karen Young, Judith Barsi, Lynn Whitfield, Mitchell Anderson

Screenplay: Michael de Guzman

Synopsis:  As Christmas approaches in Amity, Deputy Sean Brody (Mitchell Anderson) is kept from his family celebration by a report of a dock piling that has become snagged on a channel marker, posing a threat to the returning fishing vessels. Sean pilots a boat out to the marker. As he leans over the side to struggle with the tangled wood, an enormous shark lunges at him from the water and tears off his arm. Sean falls back into the boat, shrieking for help, but cannot be heard over the Christmas preparations in town. The shark attacks again. Sean is pulled into the water, then under it…. Michael Brody (Lance Guest), Sean’s marine biologist brother, flies in from the Bahamas with his wife, Carla (Karen Young), and young daughter, Thea (Judith Barsi). He finds his mother, Ellen (Lorraine Gary), in a state of near total collapse, and begins to fear for her mental condition when she claims that the shark deliberately sought out Sean because he was a Brody. Later, she demands that Michael give up his job, insisting that otherwise he will die like his father and brother. When Michael points out that his father died of a heart attack, Ellen claims it was brought on by fear. Unable to combat his mother’s obsession, Michael tries to convince her that no great white shark has ever been seen in the area where he works, that the water is too warm, but she will not listen. After Sean’s funeral, Michael manages to talk Ellen into accompanying himself and his family to the Bahamas. On the last leg of their journey they are flown in by a local character known as Hoagie (Michael Caine), who takes an immediate liking to Ellen. The holiday does not begin well, however, when first Ellen overreacts to Thea being near the water, then begins to suffer nightmares of her own death by shark attack. Meanwhile, Michael and his partner, Jake (Mario Van Peebles), get back to work on their research into conchs. Christmas arrives, but Ellen cannot shake her depression. She tries again to talk Michael into changing his line of work, but he continues to insist that it is perfectly safe. Even as he speaks, however, an ominous shape is gliding through the water towards the Bahamas…. As Ellen builds sandcastles on the beach with Thea, she is suddenly gripped by a terrible certainty. She stands staring out at the water, as if waiting for something…. With an effort, Ellen pulls herself together. She and Thea are then joined by Hoagie, to whom Ellen finds herself confiding her conviction that the shark that killed Sean is coming for the rest of the Brodys. Watching from his boat, Michael is disturbed by the sight of his mother in such close companionship with a comparative stranger. Michael and Jake get back to work, this time with Jake using their one-man submersible to hunt for conchs. Without warning, an enormous shark looms up near the submersible. Stunned, Jake can only speak numbly of “a big fish”. Over the radio, Michael laughingly inquires how big? His question is answered when the shark breaks the surface of the water in front of him, attacking the boat just where he stands….

Comments:  It is a documented fact that the original concept for the third Jaws film was a spoof of the preceding two entitled Jaws 3, People 0. That’s right, my children: there was a time when a film series was presumed to have worn out its welcome after only two entries. However, the early eighties was not only the time when the concept of the “automatic sequel” first began to raise its ugly head: it was also the era of a brief revival in the 3D format; and instead of the intentional comedy originally planned, Universal Studios produced a wholly unintentional one in the shape of Jaws 3-D. For the most part simply a mediocre action movie, Jaws 3-D moves into the more rarefied realm of the Truly Bad Film by serving up some of the most atrocious special effects ever to grace [sic.] a major studio production. The thought of what they must have looked like on the big screen, and in 3D, is absolutely mind-boggling. Confronted by the sight of a appallingly superimposed model shark shattering to pieces with its snout a slab of animated glass or, better yet, by that of poor Bess Armstrong having to hold her fibreglass co-star upside-down in the water to indicate its death, the viewer can only wonder if there was any way that the comedy that the studio originally planned could possibly have been any funnier than what, in all seriousness, it finally saw fit to release. 

When it comes to Jaws: The Revenge, you get the feeling that someone at Universal was still clinging stubbornly to the notion of a spoof sequel. Certainly the trailer indicates so: the ominous music, the underwater POV shots, and then – that tagline:

This time, it’s personal.

A joke, right? Had to be. But then Jaws: The Revenge was released, and stunned movie-goers found themselves confronted not just by a film with a plot predicated upon one of the most ludicrous concepts in the history of motion pictures – namely, a great white shark with the honour code of a Mafia don, a V8 engine under the hood, and psychic abilities to boot – but by the realisation that they were being asked to take it seriously.

Seriously.

And in one sense, it’s just as well, because when you get right down to it, Jaws: The Revenge is a mighty hard slog. Its only virtue is the sheer idiocy of its premise. The film is as short on action as it is excruciatingly long on boring character scenes, and it boasts a body count to rival that of your average romantic comedy. But for all that, and however tempted you might be, when Lorraine Gary launches into her seventy-second straight Oscar-Clip grief scene, to start reaching for the remote, in the end I think you’ll settle back in your chair and keep right on going; because let’s face it, how often do you get a watch a film about a psychic shark on a mission of revenge?

Also, the shark roars.

Seriously.

After our Spring Break in Florida with J3D, J:TR sees us back in Amity. The credits sequence is an underwater POV shot that occasionally breaks the surface to scan the town; we haven’t much doubt about whose POV it is. (There’s a thought: all those critics who wag their fingers about POV shots that supposedly make the viewer identify with psycho-killers--- Anyone ever complained about this kind of POV? Because, frankly, this is an identify-with-the-killer set-up I can really get into.) John Williams’ immortal theme music accompanies this sequence which, tragically, will prove to be the high point – that is, the artistic high point – of the whole film. There is, of course, no dialogue in this section of J:TR, which as we will soon discover is another reason to enjoy it. The story proper opens in the Brody household, and we are, uh, “treated” to the first of the film’s thuddingly ham-fisted conversation scenes, this one intended to casually clue us in on the events that have been going on between our last outing with the Brodys and this one. Thus, Ellen Brody makes a past-tense reference to her husband, letting us know that Roy Scheider had the exceeding good sense not to touch this bucket of rancid chum with a ten-foot pole. Good for him, pity for the rest of us. We are then introduced to the current incarnation of Sean Brody – Deputy Brody, that is. Last we saw of Sean, he had briefly forsaken his landlocked Colorado refuge to pay a visit to Sea World, and was promptly punished for it. If Sean had problems, as we were assured he did, and understandably, before he got to Florida, we can easily imagine his state of mind following his third encounter with a massive great white shark; yet J:TR asks us not just to accept that after those events, he chose to return to Amity, but that he chose also to follow in his father’s footsteps, a profession that requires a lot of messing about in boats.

You may insert your own swampland-in-Arizona joke here.

(The obvious interpretation of all this is that J:TR is pulling the standard sequel trick of simply pretending that its predecessor never happened. However, I have a few thoughts of my own on that subject, which I will share with you anon.)

Ellen and Sean then have one of those families-who-love conversations that rarely exist anywhere but the Hallmark Channel. Er, and in crappy studio productions about killer sharks. I’m sure all this is intended to make us feel all warm and fuzzy towards the surviving Brodys, but frankly it just made me identify with the shark even more. Then, believe it or not, things get worse, as we are introduced to the current incarnation of Michael Brody, plus family. Ellen has a telephone conversation with her granddaughter, Thea, who is five years old and the only grandchild that Ellen has. We know this, because these facts are mentioned in a way that doesn’t feel one bit dragged into the conversation, nossirree. It gets worse. When Michael gets on the line, Sean fills us in on him with this artlessly constructed greeting:

“Ask the big doctor about his job! Tough life, you Bahamian beach bum, playing in the water all day!”

And it gets worse again. We further learn that it’s Christmastime, and that Sean is engaged to be married. In short, the whole thing is so happy-happy-joy-joy, that you just know something appalling is about to happen – even if you weren’t watching a killer shark film. (Hollywood always seems to think that showing how blissfully happy people are just before something terrible happens – see Godsend for a particularly heavy-handed recent example – heightens the ensuing tragedy. Personally I’ve always found the thought of losing someone just after you’ve had a blazing row with them and told them how much you don’t love them far more poignant.) Sean checks in at the police station and is sent to remove a snagged dock piling from the channel, to clear the way for the returning fishing boats. It has to be him who goes, because the other deputy (or the sheriff, they aren’t clear) is off checking on an outbreak of “cow-tipping”. (They have cows in Amity?) And the Coast Guard? Oh – they’re “busy”.

So, as Amity rehearses its upcoming Christmas pageant in the background, Sean sets out to take care of business. He stops his boat near the channel marker and starts leaning over the side to pull clear the troublesome piling, at which point we get….a POV shot.

Uh-oh.

The shark launches from the water, which oddly is already churning with blood, and in a flurry of confusing editing, takes off Sean’s arm. His wound, presumably to compensate for the mess in water, noticeably fails to bleed. Sean shrieks for help, but cannot be heard over the incessant carolling from the town. The shark then attacks again, chomping a piece out of the boat and tipping Sean into the water. He is soon dragged under, and the boat goes down in sympathy. We are then given a close-up of the piling that caused all the trouble, and….

….but more on that later.

After a brief (and, I would have thought, procedurally unnecessary) identify-the-body scene, it’s time for some real pain and suffering (no offence, Sean), as the rest of the Brody clan flies in from the Bahamas.

Some people – myself and others – happen to feel that the depiction of the four central characters in Jaws 3-D was the one really successful aspect of that sorry enterprise. Jaws: The Revenge, conversely, seems determined to put as much distance between itself and its predecessor as it can by giving us central characters who are unlikeable, annoying and dull. Which brings us to this film’s version of Michael Brody. As I’ve intimated already, it’s often claimed that J:TR ignores the existence of J3D, one of the main arguments being the lack of continuity between the two Michaels. Personally, I disagree. I think this Michael Brody is in fact that Michael Brody, but that this Mrs Brody isn’t that Mrs Brody (using the title in potentiality). My theory is, that Michael has suffered a romantic dislocation between films; that after several months of twiddling her thumbs in the wilds of Venezuela, the first Mrs Brody finally threw up her hands, announced, “Screw this for a joke!”, and took that dream job at the Scripps Institute after all. Upon which, on the rebound, Michael took up with the first bimbo who wandered along – never mind how irritating she might be – and, in tribute to the departed – and probably in recognition of what an extremely poor bargain he’d made, exchanging Bess Armstrong for Karen Young – underwent a mid-stream career change, and became a marine biologist himself.

Oh, okay, okay. But don’t try telling me that this is any dumber than anything else this film asks us to accept!

Hmm…. A lengthy and pointless diversion. I wouldn’t be avoiding something, would I? Well, yes; and that something would be Thea Brody, a prime example of that mysterious Hollywood breed of child characters, who obviously the audience is supposed to find irresistibly adorable (as do all the adults in the film, who laugh uncontrollably at her every cutesy-wootsie utterance), but who is in actuality utterly, utterly noxious. In fact, Miss Thea Brody (aged five) manages the not inconsiderable task of wresting away from Mario Van Peebles’ Jake the title of Character We Would Most Like To See Get Cacked By A Great White; our sentiments being exacerbated, of course, by the knowledge that, this being the kind of film it is, we haven’t the slightest hope of our dreams coming true.

Anyway…. Michael, the second missus (Carla, if you care) and Thea arrive in Amity, and we notice that Thea seems rather bright and bubbly for someone whose near relative just fulfilled his manifest destiny. Michael goes through the house to where his mother stands by the water (!?) and tries to comfort her. And, lo – it begins:

“It came for him. It waited all this time, and it came for him.”

At the time Michael just lets this remark go, but later Ellen is more explicit: “I want you to get out of the water. I want you to give up that terrible job! I don’t want anyone in my family near the water ever again, never!”

Michael tries to convince Ellen that her belief that the shark specifically picked out Sean as a victim is – how shall I put this? – somewhat improbable, but Ellen won’t listen. Perhaps he should have framed his argument in words other than, “Sharks don’t commit murder.” (In fact, Michael also uses the word voodoo. An odd choice, you might think, except that as Ken Begg revealed in his review of J:TR, one of the, uh, “explanations” for the shark’s behaviour offered in the alternative drafts of the screenplay was nothing less than a voodoo curse! Still – whether that version of the story could possibly have turned out any stupider than what they went with is moot.) Ellen stands firm: “It picked out Sean! It killed your father!” Michael is forced to point out that his father died of a heart attack (RIP, Martin), but even that carries no weight with Ellen: “He died from fear! The fear of it killed him!”

Uh-huh. Let’s try this pop quiz, shall we? Your two encounters with great white sharks (from both of which you emerged triumphant, let us not forget) have induced in you a state of pathological fear so great, it could – and ultimately does – induce a fatal heart attack. Do you: (a) move away from the water; or (b) continue living on a fricking ISLAND!!??

Of course, those of us who have stuck with the Jaws films, and suffered through their instalment by instalment deterioration, know perfectly well where the idiotic notion on which J:TR turns came from: Jaws 2, in which, yes, Martin Brody, confronted by the knowledge that a second great white shark had wandered into his jurisdiction, did indeed begin to wonder whether sharks go gunning for particular human beings – only to have that film’s marine biologist, Dr Elkins, put him in his place in a typical smug and snotty movie scientist way: “Sharks don’t take things personally, Sheriff!” And Martin, if not quite convinced, nevertheless conquered his fear and did his job, because that’s the kind of guy he is. Was. Which the screenwriter of this epic seems rather to have overlooked.

And yet, you know, it isn’t the image, as ludicrous as it is insulting, of Martin Brody cowering beneath his covers as a vengeful shark plotted its revenge out in the ocean that most annoys me about all this. What I want to know is – who the heck is “it”??

I mean, this isn’t some superhero vs supervillain story, with the bad guy temporarily thwarted and vowing revenge at the end of each episode. In each previous film, the shark died!! So this isn’t the mate of the shark in Jaws, because she (or he) died in Jaws 2. And it isn’t the child, or even grandchild, of those sharks, because both of them died in Jaws 3-D, one from a grenade, the other from an even deadlier dose of human stupidity. So what we have here is some distant relative, some third cousin twice removed, who nevertheless feels compelled to give up his peaceful existence and carry out a bloody (and inevitably fatal) campaign against a bunch of people he’s never heard of, in order to revenge relatives he barely knows.

Crimeny. It is the Mafia. Or possibly an Anthony Mann western.

We make it through Sean’s funeral, and then Michael & Co. manage to convince Ellen to come back to the Bahamas with them. Because, of course, there’s nothing like a beach holiday to help someone get over a shark attack.

As the Brodys leave Amity, we are given an ominous close-up of a floating piece of wood, no less than the very piling that led to Sean Brody’s death; and here we are forced to accept something that, previously, our brains have been desperately trying to deny. You see, there are marks all over the piling; long, slash-like marks; the kind of marks that might be caused by….the jaws of a shark.

Yes. Yes, it’s true. There’s no point in denying it. Jaws: The Revenge does in truth ask us to accept that Sean Brody’s death was the result of a deliberate ambush laid by a shark.

And when you think about it, the ambush itself is almost easy to believe, considering what must have come before: that the shark knew who Sean was, and that he had returned to Amity and become a cop; that his job would compel him out onto the water; and that, assuming both his co-deputy and the Coast Guard were “busy”, he would be the one sent to, oh, I don’t know….try to free a piling that had somehow become caught on a channel marker, perhaps….

In other words – Jaws: The Revenge boasts the second stupidest back-story in the history of motion pictures, right after I Still Know What You Did Last Summer.

But, hey! – you know what? I can accept all of this. I can. The specialised knowledge. The diversionary tactic that kept the Coast Guard busy. The snagging of the piling on the marker. All of it. In fact, the only thing I’m having a problem with….

….is figuring out how the shark organised the cow-tipping….

Anyway, back to the Brodys. The final leg of their trip is on a light plane piloted by J:TR’s name guest star, Michael Caine….whose character bears the unfortunate sobriquet Hoagie.

Let’s stop for a minute here, and consider Michael Caine.

(Oh, come on, I hear them cry, not ANOTHER pointless diversion!? Yeah, that’s right – and don’t expect me to apologise for it. When the film manages to engage my interest as thoroughly as my own random thoughts, I’ll stop.)

One of the odder things about the world of Truly Bad Film is the arbitrary way that a reputation can stick – or not. Hence you get someone like, say, Richard Burton, who with offerings like Bluebeard, The Medusa Touch, and above all Exorcist II: The Heretic, almost managed to obliterate the memory of the great achievements that had come before. Conversely, you get someone like Michael Caine, who has not only given great performances in a number of truly great films, but has also lent himself to a remarkable number of absolute stinkers: The Swarm, above all, but also Hurry, Sundown, Beyond The Poseidon Adventure, The Island, The Hand, Blame It On Rio, The Holcroft Covenant, On Deadly Ground….and, oh yeah, Jaws: The Revenge. Funny thing is, though, no-one ever seems to think of Caine as “Bad Film Actor Michael Caine”, still less “Bad Actor Michael Caine”; he’s just good old Michael Caine….who happens to have made a bunch of Very Bad Films. With some people, it just – doesn’t – stick.

Sir Michael did, however, find himself in the middle of a uniquely humiliating experience early in 1987, when he finally landed a long-overdue Oscar (BSA, for Hannah And Her Sisters), and got to accept it via a live cross to – ulp! – the set of Jaws: The Revenge. A good sport as always, Caine took the awkward situation in his stride. His explanation for his involvement in this piece of nonsense is that he got a free holiday in the Bahamas, and was able to pay off his new house. Put like that, how could anyone blame him? And it’s not as if any of what’s wrong here is his fault. Nor does he piss all over this wretched film, as an actor of his stature might consider himself entitled to do (one with a little less class, that is). Rather, he gives a lackadaisical performance quite in keeping with the idiotic tone of the film; one so very lackadaisical, it gives the impression of being entirely ad libbed. (As I recall, my reaction upon a first viewing of it was to remark, “You’re just making this shit up, aren’t you, Mike?”) And who knows? Maybe Joseph Sargent did just turn Caine loose and let him get on with it. After all, by this stage of the production, he had a number of much bigger problems on his hands….

Hey, the Brodys! Remember them? They’re on their way to Michael and Carla’s, their driver serenading them on the way with a Christmas song. (In his review, Ken suggests that they were going for an off-kilter feel here, with the whole “Christmas in the sunshine” thing. Speaking as someone who rather too frequently has spent Christmas Day dodging bushfires, I didn’t even notice that something was supposed to be “wrong”.) Thea’s first act upon arriving home is to dash out to play on a rope swing at the end of a dock, and Ellen’s is to have a major freak-out as a consequence. We cut from that to the sight of Ellen swimming alone in the sparkling Bahamian waters, and being gruesomely dismembered by a shark. This, I’m sure you’ll be astonished to hear, is Just A Dream.

And then we get to see Michael at work. And to meet Jake. Mon. How’s this for a tone-setting opening speech? “Will you stop farting around? Michael! What th’ hell you doing down there, hey? Listen, you remember what dey look like? Dey hard on the’ outside, chewy on th’ inside? Sometimes dey come wid a little grime attached? Move your ass, man!”

In case you haven’t figured it out, Jake is the Odious Comic Relief. This realisation comes with the accompanying pain of knowing just how seldom OCRs get killed off. Although, as it turns out---

Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

The “they”---sorry, “dey” that Michael is looking for is a certain species of conch, which he and Jake are supposed to be tagging in order to report their numbers, movements, breeding, and so on. Upset about Michael’s, excuse the expression, sluggish efforts, Jake launches into an abusive speech that highlights a strange detail of the film (yes, another one), the various characters’ ongoing lack of consideration towards Michael. For instance, Carla, his loving wife, keeps asking him What’s wrong?, while Jake, his colleague and best friend, starts by referring to his trip to Amity as simply “going away”, goes on to complain about his demeanour upon his return, and caps things off by reacting to the presence of a great white shark in the Bahamas with a glee wholly untempered by the fact that his best friend’s brother died in a shark attack all of a week ago. Anyway, here the two of them patch things up; and then it’s Ellen’s turn to go on a downer, which she does in the middle of the Christmas present opening. She and Michael have yet another “I want you out of the water” argument, which climaxes with Michael uttering one of my all-time favourite movie lines:

“Jake and I are scientists. We’re almost PhDs. We know what we’re doing.”

Heh….

Heh, heh, heh….

Heh-heh-heh-heh-heh-heh-heh-heh-heh….

Heh.

Sorry. It’s just that I’ve got a few too many friends doing post-graduate research.

But really, this is why I love this film. I reviewed Tornado! last year primarily to highlight its ridiculous concept of how scientific research is funded and conducted, and Jaws: The Revenge is even more absurdly misinformed. When Michael is first refusing to give up his job, we hear that he and Jake have “just got our first grant”. Shortly hereafter, Jake will complain that they have “three months left of work, and no money left to support it”. Unenthused about sea-snails, he greets the shark’s appearance with a cry of, “Now we can do some real research!” Oh, some real research? And what would that be, exactly? And as for the snails, “We write it up, wrap it up, and hand it in.” Michael objects, “Look, my name goes on the report. If it’s a half-assed job, I don’t get my doctorate and neither do you.”

So, as I understand it, in this universe, you do a maximum of six months’ fairly casual and basic research (as freelancers, too, it seems: we see no sign of an administering university or, God forbid, a supervisor); you write – and jointly – a “report”; and, assuming you don’t do too half-assed a job, they hand you a doctorate. Well, well, well…. I’m sure all this will be of great interest to my many friends and colleagues who have devoted between three and seven years to the same pursuit.

Anyway, Ellen and Michael’s latest circular argument ended with him insisting, “There’s nothing to worry about.” Naturally, this is the cue for a cut beneath the water, and a confirmed sighting of Cousin Bruce. As he cruises towards the Bahamas, we must pause – again – to reflect upon the fact that the one aspect of this film that has drawn the most derision over the years – more, that is to say, than the opening ambush, or the notion of a shark carrying out a personal vendetta against a particular family, or even that of a shark establishing a telepathic link with one of its potential victims (oh, yes – we’ll get to that shortly) – is its suggestion that a shark could swim from Amity to the Bahamas in about three days!!! Hard [*cough*] to believe of any shark, but most of all of Cousin Bruce, who is, one has to say, looking a little ragged. You’d think over time that improvements in technology would also allow for improvements in such things as mock-up sharks, wouldn’t you? – but it is a strange truism of film-making that the later in a series a film is produced, the worse the effects are, regardless of the budget. (Hard as it is to believe, this thing cost more than Jaws 3-D.) The only exception to this rule that I can think of off hand is the Child’s Play films, which reversed the trend with a vengeance.

And as Cousin Bruce wends his merry way, Ellen is building sandcastles on the beach with Thea. Digging a moat, she backs into the lapping waves; and as soon as she touches the water she stops – and turns – and stares out to sea….

Seriously.

Hoagie then shows up, and Ellen ends up confiding to him her conviction that not only was Sean’s death not an accident, but that the shark in question is heading towards them. Hoagie takes this with a straight face, proving conclusively that Michael Caine is a very fine actor. As the two stroll on the beach, Michael looks on disapprovingly from his boat, initiating a subplot that will lead precisely nowhere, but will establish Michael as a dick of the first order. Ellen and Hoagie then go for a joy flight in his plane and end up at a local festival.

Now – I rather like the fact that the film is happy to shape a romance for two characters generally considered beyond the Hollywood cut-off age for that sort of thing, but the fact remains that the Ellen/Hoagie/jealous Michael stuff is just filler in a killer shark film sadly bereft of killer shark action. The problem, of course, is that we know this shark basically only wants to kill Brodys; and there simply aren’t enough Brodys, eligible Brodys, available. I mean, personally I’d be happy to see any or all of Ellen, Michael, Carla and Thea – especially Thea – bite it, but let’s face it, it ain’t gunna happen. If they had to go ahead with this idiotic storyline, they should have invented more Brodys, relatives of Martin’s, obviously, already established in the Bahamas, who invite their recently bereaved cousins for a visit. That might have worked. Or at least livened things up.

Back at sea, it’s Jake in the submersible, mon, when Cousin Bruce looms up rather comically along side him. Jake can only stutter about “a big fish”, allowing Michael to laughingly inquire how big? – and Cousin Bruce to answer by lifting his head out of the water and chowing down on the research vessel right at Michael’s feet. And once again, there is a blood in the water despite there being no attack. Frankly, I’m getting a little worried about Cousin Bruce’s state of health.

Jake gets out of the water and launches into an excited speech about the shark! – a great white!! – and in the Bahamas!!! – that, to be honest, I have some sympathy with. Michael eventually responds with a plea that Jake not mention the shark to Ellen, which belatedly reminds Jake about, you know, that whole dead brother thing. In the end they both decide to keep silent, the one to have the opportunity of doing some real research, the other out of concern for his mother. And I’m sure the beachside community of which they are both members will have no trouble at all accepting those explanations, once they hear them during the inevitable coronial inquiry.

While all this has been going on, we’ve been cutting back and forth between Cousin Bruce and Ellen, who senses his presence, no less. She is obviously shaken, but puts on a show of bravado for the benefit of Hoagie, who doesn’t buy a penny’s worth of it. They end up in a bar, where Hoagie gives in to an “irresistible urge”. (He kisses her, you pervs!) Later that night, Michael is worrying, no, not about the honking big shark that seems to be following his family around, but about the company his mother is keeping. Hoagie eventually brings Ellen home, manfully keeping up the schtick that here counts as “characterisation” – that is, emitting an endless stream of anecdotes. We heard the start of one concerning head-hunters up the Amazon as he and Ellen flew off; here, we get a punch line involving flies and disinfectant. The only wonder is that he never makes an entire roomful of people break into guffaws with the line, “Now we can all get some sleep!” (Regional joke, sorry. Actually, come to think of it, generational regional joke. Very sorry.) Michael continues to glare out the window at his mother and her companion, until Carla distracts him up slipping off her knickers and firing them at him. Ew.

And then – more filler, as our characters see in the New Year. Ellen dances with Hoagie, and Michael goes all Hamlet on them. He’s trying to work up the nerve to tell Ellen about the shark. She, on the other hand, tells him that she’s over that whole silly shark-coming-to-kill-us-all business. I think what we have here is a failure to communicate. And then – still more filler, as Michael and Carla have a spat over who should take the garbage out. Man, I wish that shark would get on with it!! He doesn’t, of course, but we do get something approximating action as Jake prepares to stick a transmitter into Cousin Bruce by – get this – attaching himself to the boat by a rope and leaning out over the thoroughly chummed waters.

They’re scientists, mon. They know what they’re doing!

Jake’s plan is carried through with an astonishingly lack of fatalities – rats! – and we instigate a thoroughly annoying “tracking the shark” bit that will be used in a futile effort to build suspense, as Jake’s equipment will repeatedly crap out at just the wrong moment – that is, until one of our brainiacs taps on the side of the receiver. They’re almost PhDs, mon! Here we make the surprising discovery that Cousin Bruce has a wobbly dorsal fin….and I’m not sure he isn’t supposed to be making the Carcharodonian equivalent of an obscene hand gesture at Michael as he submerges (which, by the way, he does like a submarine: straight down!).

Why is it that bad sequels always remind you of their good predecessors? J:TR, for reasons best known to Michael de Guzman and Joseph Sargent, serves up periodic flashbacks from Jaws (and in sepia, no less). During Sean’s funeral, we saw Ellen “remembering” how he used to mimic his father; and now, here---

Yes, I’m sorry, they are going to do that; and it’s just as appalling as you might anticipate.

Back to the ocean blue, and Michael tagging some snails. You know – what he’s being paid to do. Jake assures him that if the shark comes within a radius of three miles, he’ll know it; so it’s no surprise when it instantly appears beside Michael. Actually, given a speed of three miles a minute, Amity to the Bahamas in three days is almost feasible. Cousin Bruce attacks the submersible, but Michael gets away. That last burst of speed must have worn poor Brucie out, though, because Michael easily evades him – rats! – taking refuge in a wreck where he and his adversary play cat-and-mouse down the narrow passages of the ship. Michael finally gets away by opening up the air-valve on his scuba tank and rocketing to the surface….which puts us in mind of a similar escape in Jaws 2, which resulted in a severe case of the bends and a victim consequently unable to say he’d seen a shark. Consequences to Michael Brody? Zip. Zilch. Nada. Rats.

I must say, though, that the previous sequence is one of the high points of them film, because it grants us lingering, unobstructed views of Cousin Bruce….and he is a shocker. He looks like he’s made of carpet off-cuts (seriously: in one shot, you can see the seam!); he lists as he moves through the water; and during the pursuit through the wreck, we catch glimpses of both the rails he was running on, and the rod used to propel him! I suppose that Cousin Bruce never quite reaches the heights of his distant relative, The Amazing Retractable Swiss Army Shark, but boy! – he does have his moments….

I haven’t said much about Carla Brody to date – chalk it up to lack of interest – but now you need to know that she is an artist “of growing reputation” who has just had a piece, an abstract metal sculpture, commissioned for display near the beach by the local authorities. The dedication ceremony is today. It’s the biggest moment in Carla’s professional life….and where is her loving husband? Why, out on his research barge, of course, chasing that shark he still hasn’t told anyone about. He gives the “When you fall off a horse….” speech, which I’m not sure actually covers nearly getting munched by a great white, and it takes Jake – Jake, mon! – to remind him of Carla’s special day….which he chooses to ignore.

Something tells me it won’t be long before the second Mrs Michael Brody goes the way of the first Mrs Michael Brody….and who can blame either of them?

And indeed, at the beach we find Carla with steam starting to curl from her nostrils. She restrains herself, however, as she is introduced to the gathered crowd by a local authority figure who is played by a cameoing Melvin Van Peebles. (I guess the call of a free holiday suckered him in, too.) All the speechifying is too much for Thea, and she persuades her distracted mother to let her go and play on a “banana boat”, a long inflatable yellow thing that you sit on while it is towed through the water.

Anyone see where this is headed?

Ellen is among the crowd at the ceremony, and as Carla steps up to take her bow, she is looking instead out to sea….sensing something. Sure enough, a fin cuts the water right near the banana boat. In fairness, this attack sequence is probably the best staged scene in the film (although Cousin Bruce’s pink plastic gums are a bit too evident), and remarkably, someone is actually killed. That makes a whole two – count ‘em, two – victims! Though of course, the victim isn’t Thea – rats! – but an unfortunate responsible adult sitting next to her. Cousin Bruce ensures that the horrified onlookers all get a really good view of it, too, by somehow holding his body above the water line as he munches. The rest of the boat riders make it to shore, and as Carla comforts Thea, Ellen turns towards the open ocean with a grim expression that says that---well, that This time, it’s personal!! She strides off, eventually commandeering Michael’s own boat, and heads purposefully out to sea. As for what that purpose is, ya got me. I’ve never been able to figure out what Ellen thinks she’s doing here. Let’s give her the benefit of the doubt and say she’s just drawing Cousin Bruce away from the shore.

Michael eventually arrives home, and it seems at length to have dawned on him that he’s likely to be in the shit with his wife, although exactly how much shit, he has no idea. He opens with an apology about missing the ceremony, but that has slipped down Carla’s list of priorities. (One gets the feeling that Michael will be hearing a word or two on the subject at some future time, however.) Carla tells her husband that “Thea was attacked by a shark!” – which, strictly speaking, is true, although Carla doesn’t know it. Michael is dumbfounded – dumb something, anyway – and lets slip that he knew about the shark. Also – if only he’d realised (i.e. bothered to think) – that there was a very good chance of it coming after Thea.

Ooooh, Mikey….start looking for a good lawyer now, mon!

Carla mentions Ellen. Michael gets this “Uh-oh!” look and demands to know where she is. He then realizes his boat is missing and takes off. He and Jake set out in a small motorboat. They encounter Hoagie, out fishing, and the three end up searching for Ellen in Hoagie’s plane. Jake tries to reassure Michael that Ellen will never find the shark – “We couldn’t!” “It will find her!” retorts Michael, upon whom the light has finally dawned. Hoagie reveals that Ellen had told him her belief that the shark was hunting the Brody family. And believe it or not, Michael thinks this is a good moment to get pissy over his mother having a B-O-Y-F-R-I-E-N-D.

Dickhead.

Anyway, Ellen and Cousin Bruce have indeed found one another. Ellen gazes grimly at her mortal enemy and mutters, “Come and get me, you son of a bitch!” Which (apart from being yet another painful Jaws rehash) again raises the question of what the hell Ellen is doing? Sacrificing herself for the greater good? If Cousin Bruce is hunting all Brodys, how would that help Michael, Carla and Thea? Gahh!

The three in the plane spot Ellen just as Cousin Bruce starts to attack her boat, during which Brucie bounces up out of the water in a manner rarely seen outside of False Bay, South Africa. Hoagie pulls off a stunt landing on the water and orders Michael and Jake to Ellen’s boat, insisting that he’ll keep the shark busy – presumably by entertaining it with a string of anecdotes. (“Ha, ha, ha! Good one, Hoagie!”) Jake babbles something about the shark being attracted by the plane’s “electromagnetic impulses”, which I suppose is meant to explain why Cousin Bruce attacks the plane – in the greatest animal-versus-machine tussle since the bear took out a helicopter in Grizzly – despite there being a nice, juicy Brody in the water. Michael and Jake make it to the boat, but the plane goes under….as, it seems, does Hoagie.

Swampland-in-Arizona time again, folks! And indeed, the other three have barely had a moment’s mourning (passed chiefly in Michael and Ellen swapping not unreasonable inquiries as to why each of them was stupid enough to come out there) before Hoagie is climbing in on the far side of the boat. The others demand to know how he got away and, to my unending delight, Hoagie gives the exact same answer that John Agar did in Curse Of The Swamp Creature, when his character was asked how he could find oil without any equipment:

“It wasn’t easy!”

(Check out Michael Caine as he “climbs out of the water”, too; he is perfectly dry! I guess a bad reputation isn’t the only thing that won’t stick to him.)

They then try to leave, but naturally the boat’s engine isn’t working. Jake’s shark-tracking equipment is, though. Jake then has a brainwave, and cooks up some sort of gizmo that (to cut a lot of incoherent technobabble short) can deliver strong electric shocks to Cousin Bruce, if only they can get it down his throat. To achieve this, Jake attaches his zapper to a pole and does exactly what Martin Brody, he of beloved memory, once sensibly refused to do: he climbs out on the prow of the boat. Cousin Bruce attacks again, swallowing the zapper. He also takes out the prow, and….Jake.

They're scientists, mon!

They know what they're doing!

A moment’s silence, if you please. Or a moment’s wild celebratory cheering. Whatever.

This, uh, tragic scene is hilariously rendered in slow motion, so we get very extended versions of the others’ shocked reactions….and a big drawn-out “JAAAAAAAAAAAAKKKKEEEE!!!!” from Michael.

Ellen stares out at Cousin Bruce and starts having – I don’t know what else to call them – visions: of the attack on Thea – fair enough, she was present – and of Sean’s death, when she wasn’t – and of Martin shooting the original Bruce – ditto. The only explanation I can come up with is that Cousin Bruce is transmitting these images into her mind….presumably (hey, in the latter case he wasn’t there either!) having received them himself from some of his relatives. Oh, well. I guess it isn’t any stupider than anything else that’s been going on.

Michael grabs Jake’s newly-devised gizmo, which he uses to send a violent electrical charge at his enemy. And Bruce convulses, launching up out of the water again, and….and….

….roars.

Yes, that’s right. Roars.

As I think I’ve mentioned elsewhere, great white sharks can in fact vocalise. However – as far as I’m aware, they don’t actually sound like they’re auditioning to do vocal work in the dubbing of a Godzilla movie.

Previously, Hoagie ordered Ellen to take the wheel while he worked the pump, so that they could try to outrun Cousin Bruce. She takes the wheel, all right, but she ain’t running away, no sir. She sends the boat directly at the oncoming shark, both of them gathering speed. One more zap from the gizmo lifts Brucie up out of the water again (“Rrrrrooaarrrrr!!!!”). The jagged prow of the boat impales him, and the shark….

….uh….

….explodes!!!???

Uh. Yeah. Okay. The shark explodes. After everything else that’s gone on, why the hell not? The shark explodes.

And in fact, thanks to the wonders of crappy editing, he explodes four times. Words fail me when I try to describe it. Instead, I recommend that you hop on over to Ken’s review, where you will find a graphic pictorial rendering of this unforgettable climax.

Oh – and just to add insult to brain injury – Cousin Bruce’s sinking corpse is actually the shot from the climax of Jaws, when the original Bruce met his own grisly demise. Bastards.

(And if you look closely, you can see the shattered air-tank hanging out of “Cousin Bruce’s” mouth!)

The [*snicker*] explosion tips Ellen, Michael and Hoagie into the water, and their boat sinks. They scramble to find wreckage to cling to, and as they do so, they hear a faint cry.

Oh, no! you shudder.

Ohh, yes, sighs I.

Yes, they did it. They failed to kill off Jake. Bastards.

The explanation behind this is that test audiences liked Jake and didn’t want him killed; so Universal re-shot the ending to include his highly improbable survival. Which prompts me to ask: (i) what kind of dumb-ass test audience saw this film!? – and (ii) you’re telling me that the biggest problem they had with Jaws: The Revenge was Jake’s death!!!???

(Although I do quite like Hoagie’s reaction to this turn of events: “Son of a bitch!” he exclaims. Amen, bro’!)

So the four of them make it out alive, and our last scene is Ellen flying off into the sunset with Hoagie (well….in Hoagie’s plane, anyway; they never do bother to resolve their desperately important romantic subplot), the last words spoken yet another anecdote from Hoagie, the one about the time he flew one hundred nuns to Nairobi…. Thus ends this film, and thus ends, or so it seems, the Jaws franchise. And in conclusion, I’d just like to say:

Heh….

Heh, heh, heh….

Heh-heh-heh-heh-heh-heh-heh-heh-heh….

Heh.

Footnote:  As always, I stayed right to the end of the credits after J:TR, and very near the end I saw something that almost made me fall out of my chair: someone - apparently an actual scientist from an actual university - allowed himself to be named publicly as the "Scientific Consultant" to this film!!

But then I looked a little closer....and it all became clear...

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