It's easy to see why Hollywood types -- agents, producers, studio heads, and such -- identify with sharks: They're just so darned alike. You think, now here's a subject they really know something about. And, as a result, these shark movies ought to be great, right? Maybe even spectacularly, phenomenally great, right?
Wrong. After Steven Spielberg's original, which combined shock effects with comedy and grand sea adventure touches, the series has degenerated into your basic fish-bites-man story, with very few imaginative wrinkles.
The same is true of the latest of the bunch, "Jaws the Revenge." The problem starts with the title. It's not "Jaws IV: The Revenge," which packs sort of a punch. Or even "Jaws, the Revenge," which is, at least, grammatical. No, it's just plain old "Jaws the Revenge." Gets your blood up, don't it.
Actually the title should be "Jaws IV: Grandma's Revenge." Ellen Brody (Lorraine Gary), the mother and wife of Roy Scheider in the first film, is still living in Amity with one of her two sons, Sean (Mitchell Anderson), who, following in his father's footsteps, is the local deputy sheriff. Ever vigilant, he hops in his boat one night to free a log that has partially overturned a buoy, and -- well, let's just say he hadn't been listening to the sound track, which intercuts the strains of a children's choir singing "The First Noel" with the familiar ominous cello chords. First thing you know, it's chow time.
As a result of this tragedy, Grandma Brody becomes convinced that this beast has it in for her family -- underwater creatures are notorious for their ability to nurse grudges -- and so won't let any of her chickies go near the water. This is rather tough, though, because her other son, Michael (Lance Guest), is a marine biologist. (Not a lot of desk jobs in this field.) Still, the better part of the first half has Grandma badgering him with lines like "Michael, I want you out of the water, you hear?" To which you expect him to answer, "Ah, Ma, I waited an hour. Honest."
The second half of the film is taken up largely by people doing incredibly stupid things to put themselves in the path of this insatiable fishy. I mean, these folks are practically falling over each other to become shark bait. Fairly early on, the action shifts to the Bahamas, where Michael conducts his research. (He charts the movements of sea conchs.) And, naturally, the shark -- the same shark -- follows them, swimming all the way from Amity to the Caribbean. Unless of course he flew, which is the only way he could have gotten there in time.
What is there to say about the remainder of the story? Yes, Mother was right. The shark -- supposedly a relative of the one in the earlier film -- is mad at the Brodys and tries (unsuccessfully) to eat Michael. And (unsuccessfully, darn it) Grandma Brody's precious granddaughter, Thea (Judith Barsi). For Grandma, this is the final straw, so she hops in Michael's boat to go after this, this, this, fish!
What she plans on doing once she catches up with the monster I don't know, (these little details appear not to have mattered to the filmmakers), but she does manage to get at least one other person gobbled up, so you can see their motives. This, of course, is what we paid our money for -- to see young men and women gets chewed up real good. And chewed up they get. Real good.
The director, Joseph Sargent, doesn't bring out any of the possibilities in the material -- not even the scary ones. And Michael Caine is wasted, though not completely. He manages to provide at least a little suspense, even if it's the extracurricular sort, by raising the question: Will an Oscar winner be allowed to become fish food? Jaws the Revenge, at area theaters, is rated PG-13 and contains scenes of violent eating.