The opening 12 minutes or so of “Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No,” are a whirlwind (make that shark-infested tornado) of Washington scenery, offering a glimpse of the iconic landmarks of the nation’s capital. So let’s think for a moment of the latest installment of the campy flick not so much as the cheesy gore-fest that it is, but rather as a series of teaching moments.
So what did we learn about Washington gone all shark-y? Here are a few nuggets:
The geography is nuts. The opening sequence starts with Ian Ziering, who plays shark-fighter Finley “Fin” Shepard, running down the steps of the Jefferson Memorial. He’s clearly on a mission … and … wait, a nanosecond later, he’s running by the Capitol. Man, the guy is fast! (But wait, wasn’t he trying to get to the White House? Never mind.)
Finally, Fin gets into an SUV bound for the White House, which gets stalled in traffic at “First Street Southwest,” where there’s a bar called Louie’s (there’s not). And then he takes a weird route on foot that somehow involves busting through the “moon gates” in the Smithsonian Castle’s Enid A. Haupt Garden.
The president can explode a shark with a grenade. Moments after doing what looks like the boring part of being president — hanging a Medal of Freedom around Fin’s neck and posing for cameras in a tuxedo — the prez, played by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, finally gets to do the fun part of the job: killing sharks! (One of them bites it when he tosses a grenade straight into an oncoming fish’s jaws.)
And just like in real life, there’s not much for a veep to do. In this case, the vice president, played by conservative flame-thrower Ann Coulter, doesn’t even seem to have much of a security detail. The only plausible character in this White House is the press secretary, played by Maria Menounos. She does totally reasonable things like introduce the president and usher reporters around — which means, of course, that she has to get (spoiler alert) chomped by a shark.
The White House is basically your grandma’s house. In “Sharknado” world, there is apparently zero security in and around the president’s abode. When he first gets to the White House, Fin gets practically to the door of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. before getting stopped at a gate. (Hey, it worked for that fence-jumper, but that’s not standard practice.)
The windows aren’t made of bulletproof glass — heck, you can jump right through them. Fin and the president make their escape by crashing, shards flying, through a window.
But hey, there’s an armory under the White House! (Which is, duh, where the president got the shark-exploding grenade.)
There’s life after Congress. We had expected former representative Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) to play a pol in the movie — maybe a congressman (since he knows the drill) or a mayor (he had an unsuccessful run at Gracie Mansion), or maybe some role that gave a sly nod to his sext-y scandal. But nope — a few minutes in, we find out that Weiner plays the NASA director (or is it NOAA?) whose job is mostly to tighten his jaw and look intense while wearing a headpiece.
Congresswomen walk fast. In this shark-y alternate reality, former representative Michele Bachmann is still serving in Congress. She gives an interview in front of the decimated White House before announcing, “I have to get to a vote.” Um, that’s about two miles away.
It’s okay to appropriate iconic World War II images. The Washington sequence ends with the Sharknado survivors, including Fin, the president and vice president, fending off one final creature by impaling it with an American flag that just happened to by lying around. It takes the whole gang to hoist up the flag/weapon, and the group makes a formation that would be familiar to anyone who knows their Iwo Jima history.
Real journalists never say die. The East Coast has descended into shark-infested chaos, but one brave group of journos refuse to leave Washington to seek safety. That’s the “Today Show” gang — Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie, Al Roker and Natalie Morales (mind you, the flick is brought to you by NBC Universal). They know their deaths are imminent. “It was great working with all of you,” Lauer intones, just before a shower of sharks descend on them. Chomp. Lesson over.