Movie Review: Spring Break Shark Attack

The time has come. A new masterpiece has been born. Not since the production of the esteemed Good Burger have we seen a film director so preciously hone his/her craft. Finally Spring Break Shark Attack gives us a hyper-realist depiction of the emotional, romantic, and terrifying side of one wild week at a Florida spring break destination. SBSA is a made-for-TV movie by the CBS network. How could a movie fail with a tag line of “Spring Break is a time to go wild and have fun…but for these college kids, spring break bites!”? With the directing and producing team holding a repertoire of Road to Avonlea and Category 6: Day of Destruction. Throw in a few C-list actors and one can just picture CBS execs saying, “What we have here is something very special.” They don’t disappoint.

The plot is situated around Danielle (The OC’s Shannon Lucio), a college girl whose domineering parents have forced her to live at home while attending a local college. They try to prevent her from attending the traditional beach spring break and instead suggest she attend a Habitat for Humanity project in Colorado. In a heated conversation she reminds her father of his infidelity to gain the upper hand (a recurring trend). However, her parents prevail and she goes to Colorado…or so they think! Danielle has pulled the classic teen-movie switcheroo and told her parents she’s going to the Habitat project but instead heads off to meet her wild friends at a Florida spring break destination. Upon arriving, the viewer is treated to a great montage which includes a preview of the sweet possibilities of a traditional college spring break: beer bongs, jello wrestling, girls dancing, and gratuitous butt shots. Danielle’s friends encourage her ever so slightly to hook up with some guys. “This is like the perfect place for you to lose it.” We are introduced to Shane (Riley Smith, Eight Legged Freaks), Danielle’s spring break crush. Shane is trying to earn money with his mother’s (Kathy Baker, Shake, Rattle and Roll: An American Love Story) boat rental company to attend college. But to be a sweet movie, there needs to be a love triangle. Enter JT (Justin Baldoni, episode #1.7948 of The Young and the Restless). JT is a playa who is interested in Danielle. He and his friend Max are making a soft-core film called Girls Unleashed and he is probably interested in Danielle because he suspects that her breasts will get bigger and bigger throughout the movie, as they prove to do. The boys state that “the body is a beautiful thing that needs to be displayed…then paused, rewound, and shown again.” JT claims that Danielle is his “Everest.” Even though I doubt that Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay needed roofies to conquer their great mountain, JT feels the need to compensate for his lack of chest hair by drugging Danielle.

This love plot remains a sub-plot amongst the more prominent premise of tiger sharks maliciously attacking the spring breakers. Six people die early in the movie and the sharks continue to pester. Charlie (Wayne Thornley, nothing else, call this his breakthrough performance), Danielle’s scientist brother pulls giant sea turtles from the water with one hand saying “Five, no six, adult sea turtles weighing about 175-250 pounds with massive bites taken from them by a large sea creature…Inescapable conclusion: sharks.” Even though he’s certain, we know one shouldn’t rush to conclusions. His science partner says, “You remember the boy who cried wolf? Don’t be the boy who cried shark.” But Charlie is convinced. Now that we’ve got that determined, the sharks, en masse, wreak all sorts of havoc on drunken spring breakers. Probably the most amazing scene in the movie is when a guy on a wake board and parachute flies right into the mouth of a shark. He makes little or no effort to avoid the shark that, on the other hand, remains completely still, agape even after the wake boarder flies inside its jaws. This is a redeeming scene because it is so realistic. The CGI in this movie is understated and effective and finally we have a vivid depiction of the way blood actually explodes from a human when a shark attacks. This movie supersedes Jaws in the fact that shark attacks actually look more like a person crashing into a strawberry slushee machine.

The movie is filled with many Emmy worthy deliveries. When JT first sees his best friend and business partner, Max, he says “How long has he been here?” One is immediately captivated by the depth of mourning he must be facing as he confronts his dear friend sans half of his torso. Shane grips the audience when he is trying to sway the sharks away from the drunken spring breakers he yells “Come and get it, you hungry?” And perhaps the best…JT yells to Danielle, “Swim for your life!” Once again this shows the director’s ability to step beyond typical Hollywood and capture a hyper-realistic element. One may think that “Swim for your life!” would never actually be said in reality. But this is where they are wrong, as SBSA convincingly shows. Shane’s performance is above par for a TV movie. While it may seem that many of the rest of the actors just seemed like they want to get home and watch typical TV, this is merely another tool of the director’s to show that these people are unsatisfied with not only their context (being attacked by sharks) but also with their inner struggles, again capturing the realism of life.

Furthermore, this is clearly a propaganda film made by Habitat for Humanity and joined by CBS. Too many spring breakers are choosing a traditional party atmosphere of Panama City Beach instead of more worthy charity work. Habitat for Humanity needed an outlet to gain some interested workers. What better demographic than a post-Cold Case and March Madness TV crowd. It’s an obvious linkage. The concluding question by Danielle to Shane of “Next year Cancun?” is a subtle hint that college kids just don’t learn from horrendous situations. SBSA was so brilliantly constructed and multi-leveled that intelligent and charitable college students will be able to determine that next year they should think twice before skipping out on the Habitat project in Colorado. Or else next year’s spring break will bite, too.

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