Review: Mega Shark vs. Crocosaurus

Jaleel ‘Did I Do That?’ White stars as a Naval underwater acoustics geek whose girlfriend is killed when the title Mega Shark crashes into the battleship he’s stationed on. Meanwhile, Gary Stretch stars as croc expert Nigel who is somewhere in Africa when he’s approached by a mining company exec (Hannah Cowley) wanting his services in capturing the ginormous crocodile that has already killed 34 miners (Talk about ‘blood diamonds’!). Back to shark boy, though, as White is recruited by a Special Agent (Sarah Lieving) in assisting with the capture of the giant shark that killed his boo. Before long, both story strands are interwoven as the two giant problems need solving. Oh, and did I mention that both Shark Boy and Crocodile Dundas already have a mutual distrust of one another? Well, they do. Robert Picardo turns up as a Naval Commander.

Another monster movie from The Asylum and the SyFy Channel, this flick from director Christopher Ray (yes, the son of crap cult filmmaker Fred Olen Ray) is better than “Mega Piranha” from the same year (at least Tiffany’s not in this one), but let’s face it, getting haemorrhoids is a more enjoyable experience than watching “Mega Piranha”. At least this film gives us that long-awaited screen pairing of Steve Urkel (Jaleel White) and Coach Cutlip from “The Wonder Years” (Robert Picardo). I guess Urkel was cast because The Fresh Prince, who goes by another name now, would’ve blown out the budget. It makes me wonder whether Fred Savage or “Punky Brewster” will end up in one of these films. Other than that, there’s some pretty lame special FX, but in keeping with all of these SyFy films, they’re not awful enough to be fun and not good enough to be credible. The camera shaking whenever Crocosaurus moves was headache-inducing and stupid. That’s a lame way to try and give it some weight. I like that the creatures are suitably ginormous (so the film’s title isn’t lying), and really the FX wouldn’t have looked too bad back in 1995, but in 2010, if you can’t afford the best CGI, then use more practical means, otherwise you run the risk of looking mediocre, and mediocre CGI makes for really dull viewing. The best CGI comes with a CGI chopper, which is a bit of a ridiculous idea if you ask me. Couldn’t they afford a real one?

This film really never gets out of mediocre mode. It takes itself too seriously when camp and sheer hilarity were probably called for because the Japanese are the only ones good at this kind of straight-faced “Godzilla”-like stuff. I will say, though, that the cinematography and scenery here are terrific for a modestly budgeted film. There’s especially good use of light and darkness in the cave scene, albeit briefly as only what is necessary is illuminated. The music score is also pretty good, reminding me of a “Godzilla” film, which is a good thing I suppose, as it shows the filmmakers know what they’re supposed to be doing even if they fail on most counts.

Jaleel White is an interesting choice for the role of a shark nerd in military uniform, but I’m not so sure he pulls it off, yet I’m not so sure why. I bought him in the shark expert side of things, but seeing him in military service just seemed a little odd to me. Maybe he’s just a TV sitcom kinda guy, maybe he just doesn’t seem like ‘military issue’, I dunno. Or perhaps White should have played the character more in Steve Urkel mode rather than Stefan Urkel (Oh, please. You know exactly what I’m referring to. We all loved ourselves some Urkel). He’s a bit bland, really, but generally OK. I give him credit for playing it all with a straight face, even if that has him ultimately fighting a losing battle. He’s better than most of his fellow cast members, though, including the awful Sarah Lieving and Hannah Cowley. As a hard-arse Special Agent, Lieving is hilarious in the worst way possible. Her stone-faced schtick is just awfully unconvincing but she does get the film’s most unintentionally funny bit of dialogue, saying that the giant prehistoric croc is ‘a threat to National Security!’. Um, I think you’ll find if such a creature really existed, it’d be a threat to the entire human existence, dear. It’s a giant freakin’ prehistoric croc for cryin’ out loud. Cowley, meanwhile, perplexed me initially with her accent. She sounded like a Seth Effriken or a Kiwi trying to do an Aussie accent and failing. I’m reliably informed that she’s a Brit who emigrated to Australia, and has even appeared on the long-running soap “Neighbours”. She’s a terrible actress, she can’t even stutter convincingly at one point. The film’s co-leading man, Gary Stretch isn’t much better. British-born Stretch, a former boxer (and apparent ‘glamour boy’ of the sport) plays a Steve Irwin-esque croc expert named Nigel. Nigel would have to be the least appropriate name for a tough guy I’ve heard since some HGH-loving guy named Sylvester. Anyway, Stretch (who apparently once briefly dated a much older Raquel Welch) is pretty poor in a rather woeful caricature of a caricature. He seemed like the star of a lame Indiana Jones knock-off TV series that probably wouldn’t get past the pilot stage (Hey, even “Relic Hunter” ran for a while and that show was a snoozer that even the seriously fine Tia Carrere couldn’t liven up).

The best performance in the entire film comes from the one truly legit actor in the cast, long-serving character actor Robert Picardo. Best-known to “Wonder Years” fans (i.e. ME!) as the stern but dense and ineffectual Coach Cutlip, and “Star Trek” fans as the ship’s holographic doctor, he’s the only one to give the film its appropriate level of ham and cheese. He gives it just the right amount, chomping on his cigar for his few scenes, yet playing it straight enough that he’s not fatuous. Sadly, he’s not in the film nearly enough to save it.

Getting back to the creatures, there’s another big issue and it comes to the screen time allotted the two creatures. White and Stretch get roughly equal time, but Mega Shark is so scarcely seen in the film that it makes one wonder why they bothered with him, let alone White. The croc is frequently seen in full, but the shark, as dictated by its necessity for water is mostly seen as just a giant, lame-looking fin. I know that can’t really be helped, but it feels like the shark has no presence in the film, as a result. Furthermore, it dictates that the film’s centrepiece battle take place mostly underwater, so that if you add two CGI creatures and put them under CGI water, the result is too dark and murky. I won’t lay the blame for that one on the cinematographer, though, as it’s CGI. Also, how is Mega Shark really all that much more of a menace than a regular shark? How about creating a shark that can go on land? Otherwise it’s the same thing, only bigger. At least Crocosaurus goes on land and thus can cause damage. I must give kudos to writers Naomi L. Selfman (the subsequent “Mega Python vs. Gatoroid, which at least boasted the long-awaited screen pairing of Debbie Gibson and Tiffany) and Micho Rutare (who gets story credit) for one thing; If you’re gonna have your giant shark swallow a submarine, you might as well go all-out and give us the inevitable line ‘The shark has gone nuclear!’. It’s an awful line, but it would be an opportunity wasted if not included.

Rating: C


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