Syfy’s “Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!” rolls through Wednesday night with a noticeably weakened potency and very little camp potential left in its twirl. I’d be surprised if it triggers any warning louder than a sigh.
True, “Sharknado” hits Washington this time (the previous two iterations of the bad-on-purpose disaster movie about shark-filled funnel clouds depicted attacks on Los Angeles and New York), but the sharknado visits the capital city only long enough for us to discover that Mark Cuban is president and Ann Coulter is the vice president — a horrific premise that doesn’t last nearly long enough. As with most trends, Washington gets its turn at the “Sharknado” phenomenon about five minutes too late, after most of the fun has already been had.
As “Sharknado” hero Fin Shepard (Ian Ziering) is receiving a Medal of Freedom at the White House, the storm seems quickly bored by Washington: In short order, the Capitol Rotunda is blown apart and the Washington Monument breaks in two, with the top part spearing the White House into smithereens. “Sharknado 3” is in a rush to get to Florida — more specifically the Universal Orlando Resort, where the cross-promotional opportunities for Syfy parent company NBCUniversal can better provide a supply of commercial chum stretching to Xfinity and beyond.
The storm is now bigger than ever (“Today” show weatherman Al Roker declares the East Coast to now be the “Feast Coast”) and the sharks are more vicious, but who really cares anymore? Seen one great white shark spinning out of the sky toward a hapless, soon-to-be-pulped victim (usually a minor celebrity), seen ’em all.
There’s very little work for a TV critic to do here, except to seek shelter from a hailstorm of reader comments (see below?) assaulting him for not knowing how to lighten up and have fun. Roger that.
Still, there’s half a theory clanking around in my brain that “Sharknado” might be a nifty metaphor for the Internet itself — how it rewards hype for hype’s sake; how it destroys everything in its path; how it randomly devours one celebrity while allowing others to thrive; how there’s really no difference between shark bait and clickbait . . . eh, nobody’s listening.
The point of “Sharknado” is that there is no point. It’s the television equivalent of “The Purge” — one night of utter and improbable lawlessness without fear of punishment, the freedom to make (and watch) a program that is as crass and stupid as it can possibly be.
Perhaps the real value in “Sharknado” is to become an annual cleansing ritual of our tackiest impulses?
Anyhow, back to the story: A panicked Fin realizes that his pregnant wife, April (Tara Reid), his mother-in-law (Bo Derek) and teenage daughter (Ryan Newman) are all visiting the theme park, where no one seems terribly concerned about all the carnage up in Washington. Joining forces with the tough-as-nails Nova (Cassie Scerbo) and her geeky sidekick, Lucas (Frankie Muniz), in their heavily-fortified, sharknado-destroying Winne-bago, Fin gets to Florida too late: Several sharknados have coalesced — it’s a “sharkicane,” someone says, in a failed attempt at savvy coinage — that will wipe out everything and everyone. (Nice knowin’ ya, Savannah Guthrie.)
Underestimating the size of its britches where “Sharknado” publicity is concerned, Syfy asked critics not to reveal that the whole thing leads to a certain legendary TV lifeguard piloting a certain decommissioned NASA spacecraft into orbit in an effort to destroy the super-sharknado. So I won’t.
But by the time we’re reduced to “Sharknado in Space,” you may very well find yourself thinking back to the more innocent summer of 2013, when “Sharknado” was a strange and surprising guilty pleasure. It had its lightning-in-a-bottle moment on Twitter and set off a real-time viral storm of free hype that any network or media company would love to replicate. It’s no wonder that by trying too hard to be dumber than its predecessors, this “Sharknado” smells strongly of desperation and dead fish.
Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! (two hours) airs Wednesday at 9 p.m. on Syfy.