Maybe you didn’t even know it until the opportunity presented itself, but sometimes you just want to see Blake Lively face off for 12 rounds against the biggest, nastiest, most voracious and stalker-y shark this side of Bruce in “Jaws.”
Come on, we’re talking BLAKE VS. SHARK. She’s not Blake Lively; she’s BLAKE DEADLY. That shark won’t know what bit him! Don’t be fooled by the bikini and the surfer-chick blonde hair, buddy boy.
They should have made a one-sheet resembling a classic boxing poster for this movie.
I’m not going to tell you “The Shallows” isn’t dumb, corny, hilariously over-the-top and cheese-upon-cheesy. I’m not going to tell you it deserves to swim with the likes of “Jaws” and “Open Water” as a shark-infested thriller.
Nor can I mount any kind of defense for the final 15 minutes of this film, with a climactic scene so insanely ridiculous and beyond implausible I actually clapped, and I almost never clap at the movies.
What I will tell ya is this is an immensely entertaining millennial B-Movie, made for summertime viewing.
This is the kind of film in which our heroine befriends a wounded bird and names it … SPOILER ALERT …
That’s so bad it’s great.
Director Jaume Collet-Serra (who helmed the Liam Neeson thrillers “Run All Night,” “Non-Stop” and “Unknown”) is so smitten with the lovely Ms. Lively, his camera practically bumps into her face during an early scene in which she takes a ride through Mexico in search of “a secret beach.” It’s close-up after close-up after close-up, reminding us Lively is one of the most photogenic actresses of her time.
Lively’s Nancy Adams (how’s that for a name out of a 1950s detective series?) is an adventurous but apparently ennui-imbued Texan who recently dropped out of medical school just before becoming a doctor, and has made a pilgrimage to a legendary beach that had special meaning for her mother, who recently died of cancer.
(Lively is from Tarzana, California, and has California Surf Chick written all over her, and she doesn’t even attempt a Texas accent. Why didn’t they just have Nancy Adams hail from Cali? Ah, who cares. This is BLAKE VS. SHARK, people.)
We’re looking at a running time of fewer than 90 minutes, so as soon as we learn Nancy’s back story and we meet a few supporting characters who may or may not become shark snack fodder, Nancy is attacked by the aforementioned beast of the shallows, who digs into her thigh before she can make her way to a jagged rock formation just out of his reach.
Remember: Nancy Adams had almost completed med school before she dropped out to go on this spiritual journey. Her training comes in super-handy, particularly in a scene where she uses earrings and other jewelry to suture the leg. Cue the lingering close-ups of the self-surgery, specifically designed to make you groan and laugh nervously as Nancy talks herself through the procedure.
Filmed in New South Wales, Australia, “The Shallows” is a great-looking film, peppered with overhead long shots of the amazingly clear water, and some terrific underwater photography as well.
Lively is a real gamer in a physical role that calls for her to swim, surf, endure shark bites and jellyfish stings, and we’re just getting started. Even when she’s suffering from dehydration, gaping wounds, early onset gangrene, hunger and thirst, she still looks better than most humans do after a 10-day vacation. Most of Lively’s scenes are monologues, and while she’s not about to make you forget about a young Meryl Streep, she’s solid and convincing in the role.
As for the shark: As is the case with almost every movie shark, he’s more frightening when we don’t see him, or we catch fleeting glimpses of him. Director Collet-Serra has terrific thriller timing, to the point where we KNOW that dang shark is about to jump into frame, and yet it’s still an excellent scare moment when it does surface.
Even after chomping on a few victims and feasting on a whale it apparently killed, the shark has a real thing for Nancy. She devises a number of ingenious and risky plans to stretch out her survival time, but no matter what she does, she can’t shake that shark. Eventually they’re going to face off, one-on-one, and that’s when “The Shallows” flies right off the rails and you’ll find it difficult to suppress your laughter —
So don’t! Put on your virtual “TEAM BLAKE” T-shirt and enjoy the ride.
Columbia Pictures presents a film directed by Jaume Collet-Serra and written by Anthony Jaswinski. Running time: 85 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for bloody images, intense sequences of peril, and brief strong language). Opens Friday at local theaters.