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Sharknado 2 The Second One

D: Anthony C. Ferrante / 90m

Cast: Ian Ziering, Tara Reid, Vivica A. Fox, Mark McGrath, Kari Wuhrer, Courtney Baxter, Dante Palminteri, Judd Hirsch

On a flight to New York, Fin (Ziering) and April (Reid) are discussing their plans to meet up with Fin’s sister, Ellen (Wuhrer), her husband Martin (McGrath), and their two children, Mora (Baxter) and Vaughn (Palminteri).  As the plane heads into a storm, Fin thinks he sees a shark outside the plane.  When he sees more, and so does April, he’s absolutely sure.  When one of the sharks is sucked into one of the engines, blowing it out, the plane begins a rapid descent made worse by the subsequent deaths of the pilot and co-pilot, but not before April loses her hand to a shark in the melee.  Fin manages to land the plane, but before you can say FAA regulations or investigation, he’s warning the public about the impending sharknado and then heading off to the hospital with April.

With April (very, very) quickly recovered from her surgery, Fin leaves to find Ellen and her family.  He catches up with Martin and Vaughn, along with old flame Skye (Fox) at a Mets game and they flee to the subway just as the storm hits.  Meanwhile, Ellen and Mora are on a ferry heading back from the Statue of Liberty, along with a couple of Ellen’s friends, one of whom gets taken out by a flying shark.  Back in the subway, flooding causes sharks to attack the train, but the group survive and head above ground where they collect bomb-making equipment from various places; Fin’s idea is to destroy the storm – which has now mutated into two enormous twisters (as in the first movie) – and save the city.  Items collected, they head to the hotel building where his sister is staying, and where they are reunited, Ellen and Mora having made it back safely (but without the other friend, who gets flattened by a falling shark).

Fin and Skye try to destroy the twisters before they combine but their home-made bombs aren’t powerful enough.  Devising a back-up plan involving freon tanks stored at the top of the Empire State Building, Fin’s attempts to get there are helped by the unexpected arrival of April in a fire truck, and the cooperation of the city’s mayor.  Fin and Skye head to the top of the Empire State Building, and with three twisters now about to converge, Fin’s plan has to succeed.

Sharknado 2: The Second One - 2014

The success of Sharknado (2013), a movie with all the style of a bull in a china shop spouting nonsense rhymes, was completely unexpected considering it was more awful than anyone could have imagined.  And with that movie earning itself a 1/10 rating with this reviewer, the prospect of a sequel was like the cinematic equivalent of surviving testicular cancer with one intact, only to be told it’s back, and in the other one.  But – and this is the amazing part – Sharknado 2: The Second One, despite its clunky title, its risible dialogue and still dreadful CGI, is actually more fun than the original, and even more amazingly, it’s actually better than the original.

To be fair, that’s not saying that much, because even with what looks to be a bigger budget, the plot still plays fast and loose, and loose again, with logic and reality, the dialogue is still laughable – check out Fin’s line to April when he retrieves her severed arm (which should have been just a hand) – the special effects are still not even remotely convincing, the sharks are still shoved into as many contrived places as returning screenwriter Thunder Levin can come up with, and Tara Reid returns to give everyone that dead-eyed stare that sharks would give their dorsal fins for.  It’s an impressive collection of negatives for one low-budget movie to cram into ninety minutes, but you can just imagine the folks at The Asylum taking it up as a kind of challenge.

And yet, this time round the makers have added a vital ingredient that wasn’t in the first movie: ironic self-awareness.  It makes all the difference, lifting The Second One up from its expected rung on the lower depths of cinematic hell to a slightly higher rung where it can look down smugly on its predecessor.  From the moment Robert Hays pops up as the pilot of the New York flight, and Fin sees sharks outside the plane in the same way that William Shatner saw a gremlin on the wing in The Twilight Zone episode Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, there’s a palpable sense that someone, somewhere at The Asylum had realised what was missing from the first movie, and acted accordingly.  There are further cameos from the likes of Richard Kind as a washed-up baseball player who gets to swing one last bat at a falling shark, Billy Ray Cyrus as a doctor called Quint (not the only Jaws reference: Martin and Ellen’s surname is Brody), Sandra Denton (Pepa from the rap duo Salt-n-Pepa) as one of Ellen’s unfortunate friends, Andy Dick as a cop with the most unlikely haircut this side of Phil Spector, Kurt Angle as a fire chief, and Perez Hilton as an impatient subway traveller – all of them adding to the unexpected fun the movie’s been infused with.  (There’s also loads more in-jokes and shark movie references.)

Returnees Ziering and Reid keep it (largely) straight though, as does Fox, charged with providing some unneeded back story between Skye and Fin that no one’s interested in, and Hirsch makes way more of his role than he has any right to (even when he has to say the same dialogue twice in different shots).  Also returning as director, Ferrante keeps the pace moving but still leaves a lot of scenes bereft of tension, while the editing is as haphazard and ill-focused as the first movie, and the score relies a little too much on the (The Ballad of) Sharknado to support the action.

Rating: 3/10 – it’s still a mess, whichever way you chainsaw it, but at least Sharknado 2: The Second One knows it; with Sharknado 3 already promised for 2015, let’s hope the makers secure an even bigger budget and do something about those ropey effects, and the ropey production design, and the ropey editing, and the ropey plots, and the – oh well, you get the picture…