Reviews for the Easily Distracted

Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
The Meg

Title: The Meg

Describe This Movie In One Jaws Quote:

HOOPER: I need something in the foreground, to give it some scale!
BRODY: Foreground my ass!
Brief Plot Synopsis: "I wonder where that fish has gone."

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 2 cans of Narragansett out of 5

Tagline: "Opening wide."

Better Tagline: "Yawning is also 'opening wide'."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Rescue diver Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) is convinced a giant shark was responsible for the disaster that befell his mission to save the occupants of a nuclear submarine five years ago. His suspicions are finally confirmed when a scientifc mission — led by Dr. Minway Zhang (Winston Chao) and his daughter Suyin (Li Bingbing) — to the depths of the Marianas Trench discover the existence of a Megalodon, a giant shark believed extinct, and they succeed in convincing Taylor to return and rescue some trapped scientists. The good news? Taylor is successful. The bad news? His efforts allowed the "Meg" to escape.

"Critical" Analysis:
 You had one job, John Turtletaub. A Turtlejaub, if you will.

Was it too much to expect of the director of Cool Runnings, While You Were Sleeping, and the frenetically wearying National Treasure movies to deliver a decent shark movie? Apparently so, because even though Steve Alten's novel might be (to use a nautical phrase) pure bilge, that shouldn't matter when you're combining two ingredients that should guarantee at least *some* entertainment: Jason Statham and a giant goddamned shark.

Instead, The Meg offers a few tantalizing attack sequences which are surprisingly bloodless (though perhaps not as surprising when you consider that a 75-foot shark mostly swallows people whole), while an inexplicable amount of time is given over to a budding romance between Taylor and Suyin. Those scenes areadequately done, though why we should care about that when we ought to be watching a prehistoric shark messily devouring entire ocean liners is anybody's guess.

The end product is vastly different (meaning tamer) that what was originally intended (Statham has said as much), and one can't help wonder what might have been had Turtletaub and his trio of screenwriters upped the carnage and taken the leash off their lead actor. You don't need Crank or even Spy levels of Statham-ness, but give the guy more to do than mug for the camera and utter one-liners that wouldn't have made the final cut of an '80s Schwarzenegger movie.

They've also surrounded Statham with a depressingly generic assortment of character tropes: sleazy billionaire (Rainn Wilson); excitable tech dude (Page Kennedy), stoic ops manager (Cliff Curtis), and even a cute kid to put in peril (Shuya Sophia Cai), even though — in true late Spielbergian tradition — you never believe she's in any real danger.

In fact, rather than list all the ways the film fails to live up to its potential, why not just highlight all the nods to the original Jaws? There's an imperiled dog named "Pippin," a callback to the barrel scene (the shark drags three floating docks), a cage goes in the water (shark's in the water...our shark), a mom in a bandana argues with her son about going out on his float, and even an an upside-down boat excursion (okay, that's Jaws 2).

On one hand, if you're going to rip off a shark movie, you might as well rip off the best. On the other, these are just scenes that feel tossed out as in-jokes that do nothing but remind you how much of a missed opportunity the inept Meg really is. Aquatic horror can be done effectively, and with humor (Piranha 3D), but aside from copious smirking from Statham and flat jokes (gamely delivered) by Wilson, there's not enough of the latter. And what little shark attack action we get is far too sporadic and uninspired.

The Meg is in theaters today, and now that you mention it, how did the shark attack the sub five years before it escaped the thermocline in the trench?
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar