Having just purchased the brand new JAWS 2 disc, I got the guilty urge to revisit this universally maligned final (?) entry in the steadily declining series. I had ignored the GoodTimes DVD on store shelves for a good couple of years already, remembering only too well how abysmal this feature was upon initial viewing in 1987. Besides, I reasoned to myself, the price tag was now reduced to $9.95. So what the hell?
Lorraine Gary returns as Ellen, the wife of Chief Brody, now looking very haggard with all she's had to deal with. Her husband has died from a heart attack brought on by his fear of the shark, and her two sons are now fully grown and involved in nerve-wracking careers that wear their mother down. Eldest son Mike (Lance Guest) is a marine biologist, and his younger brother Sean is a Deputy. During the Christmas season, Sean is torn to pieces by another shark just off Amity Island. Mom then goes completely nuts and starts to believe that the shark has some sort of beef with her whole family and is deliberately seeking them out.
Looking for some kind of solace, Ellen vacations in the Bahamas with what's left of her family, including surviving son Mike, his wife Carla, and their little daughter Thea. While there Ellen falls for a friendly pilot named Hoagie (Michael Caine) and starts to relax and laugh a little with him. Meanwhile, Mike and his humorous partner Jake (Mario Van Peebles) come across another Great White (the same one who killed Sean?) and try to study it behind Ellen's back.
Just as things are starting to look up for Mrs. Brody again, her granddaughter is nearly attacked by the intruding shark and Ellen decides to confront her demon out on the ocean by herself, once and for all. The ending is so dumb and abrupt that it has to be seen to be believed. The Great White even roars with what sounds a lot like the growl used for Spot from The Munsters.
The Jaws premise is very limited to say the least, and the sequels themselves got (arguably) worse with every new chapter. So how did this despised installment fare for me this time around? Still pretty bad...but strangely watchable. While JAWS 2 is a much better movie, at least there's more of a plot attempt with #4 (though a bit stretched in the credibility department). The whole "personal vendetta" idea really exists only in Ellen's troubled mind, nobody else's. As Hoagie, Michael Caine hasn't got a clue. He's wasted in this mess, and as out of place as a priest at a stag party. Visually, director Joseph Sargent (COLOSSUS: THE FORBIN PROJECT, THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE) can't do as much with his tired material as Jeannot Szwarc managed in part 2. While this is easily one of the worst sequels ever made, it's at least better than JAWS 3-D.
Part of my open-mindedness this time is due to this nice presentation by GoodTimes. Their DVD looks and sounds great, with a colorful and sharp widescreen picture (the transfer is 2.35:1 although the box says it's 1.85:1, which I think was how it played at the movies) and Dolby Surround audio -- something NOT offered for the JAWS 2 disc. There are no extra features to speak of, but the cover boasts that this version "contains new footage not seen in U.S. Theaters." I've heard that what this refers to is the new ending where the shark blows up for no reason, as opposed to the theatrical conclusion where the Great White spews blood after being impaled. I don't remember that original ending, but it sounds better than this current one. I'm also fairly certain that some of the new footage concerns the ludicrous survival of the Van Peebles character after clearly having no chance inside the shark's mouth. He died in the original ending in the theaters and if anything the film would be all the better for leaving it that way. (Joe Lozowsky)
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