With 3D making yet another comeback in the 1980s, it stands to reason that Universal would want its piece of the action with Jaws 3. Initially, the plan was to make the third entry in the series a spoof with John Hughes and Todd Carroll among the names involved. Sadly, Universal balked and Joe Alves’ meatless Jaws 3-D was born.
The 1983 outing features a screenplay by Carl Gottlieb and Richard Matheson, although a small army of writers penned additional material. The movie is a lukewarm retread of the first two entries, with none of the heart of Steven Spielberg’s original and none of the visceral terror of Jeannot Szwarc’s 1978 sequel.
Michael Brody (Dennis Quaid) is all grown up and dating Kay (Bess Armstrong). The happy couple works at SeaWorld in Orlando, where Kay is a marine biologist and Michael farts around fixing things or something. A park mechanic (Harry Grant) is murdered by a great white shark and Michael has a severe case of déjà vu.
True to form, the park manager Calvin Bouchard (Louis Gossett, Jr.) doesn’t believe there’s any danger and smells opportunity. Philip Fitzroyce (Simon MacCorkindale) is brought in to slay the shark on network TV, a gambit protested by Kay. She wants to study the thing in captivity, which leads to a stunning revelation and a pissed-off mama.
Jaws 3 is pure fantasy and that’s fine. The titular beast is longer than anything and carries a vendetta against humanity itself, which leads to some amusing behaviour. Alves doesn’t show any of its behaviour on camera, but there are aftershocks. The revelation of the mechanic’s distended corpse is one example.
Brody is aware that the shark is a menace. He’s convinced that great white sharks are cruel killers and he corpulently expresses his view when Kay suggests custody. He knows the score. He’s seen these things up close, see? To hammer the point home, his little brother Sean (John Putch) comes to visit.
There’s some material between the Brody brothers that recalls the events of Jaws and Jaws 2, but there’s no point. Their past histories are of little consequence, especially when the fish really starts to fly. Sean is incidental at best, despite having an penetrating fear of water he hopes to resolve through sexual conquest.
One could imagine all manner of psychological consequences. After all, Sean did see the goddamn shark up close when it ate a girl. And both brothers have long laboured under the heft of their father’s fixation, which has twice carried him out to sea in a seemingly aimless quest for blood.
Regrettably, Jaws 3 isn’t interested in any of that. It simply takes the basic plot of the series and plops it in SeaWorld. It doesn’t even have the decorum to allow the cartilaginous star a shot at Shamu (Kotar), choosing instead to let the shark frighten park guests as they race through a glass shaft.
Watching the movie in 2D does allow for some hilarity. The special effects are so fragile they seem charming, particularly when the volatile ending casts a portfolio of kitschy shark entrails at the screen. There’s also a slow-motion attack scene that finds the shark sashaying limply toward a window.
Despite some inadvertent pleasures, there’s no good reason to see this pile of marine litter. Its commitment to the horror trope of moving locations is glaring, as is its lack of character development. Alves doesn’t bring anything new to the table and the special effects are dreadful without the benefit of alcohol, which makes Jaws 3 little more than a great white imitator.