The IMDB.O. List: Is ‘Jaws 3-D’ Really One of the Worst Movies Ever Made?
In The IMDB.O. List, ScreenCrush editor-in-chief Matt Singer watches every single movie on the Internet Movie Database’s Lowest Rated Movies list to determine whether they truly are the worst movies ever made. Previous chapters can be found here.
Movie #5 (In Honor of Halloween): Jaws 3-D (1983)
Director: Joe Alves
Writers: Carl Gottlieb, Richard Matheson
Release Date: July 22, 1983
U.S. box office: $45.5 million
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 11 percent
Metacritic score: 27
Letterboxd average grade: 2.0
IMDb Bottom 100 Ranking: 55
Is This Movie Bad?
It ain’t good, that’s for sure.
How Bad Is It?
No movie featuring Dennis Quaid holding a basset hound’s ears to keep them out of his water bowl while also pouring himself a cup of coffee can’t be all bad. But Jaws 3-D comes pretty close.
Even though I’d never seen Jaws 3-D before, I was pretty surprised to see it on the IMDb’s Bottom 100, mostly because Jaws got a third sequel that’s even more infamous than this one. Jaws: The Revenge routinely shows up at or near the top of lists of the worst sequels ever made, and with good reason; it is a film about a shark vowing revenge against the family that keeps murdering it, and then following its last surviving member from New England to the Caribbean (a bad place to hide from a shark, all things considered). Two Jaws sequels on one list of bad movies? Jaws 3-D isn’t even the worst Jaws film, how can it rate with the worst films ever?
It doesn’t really, although it’s still pretty crappy in its own right. Roy Scheider couldn’t be convinced to return for a third shark attack, so the film follows his adult sons Mike (Dennis Quaid) and Sean (John Putch) as they do battle with great whites at the SeaWorld theme park in Orlando. Casting the Brody kids as Jaws 3-D’s heroes establishes a connection to the previous two films, but it really does the story no favors because a) it’s nuts that this one family keeps getting hounded by sharks b) the movie was released eight years after the first Jaws and the Brody boys appear to have aged about 20 years in that time and c) if these guys did run afoul of more sharks they’d at least put a phone call in to their dad for help and he’s barely even mentioned in the film. (In Jaws: The Revenge we learn Scheider’s character died of a heart attack.)
Jaws 3-D’s not quite as silly as Jaws: The Revenge, which in some ways makes it a worse movie, or at least a more painful one to sit through. Jaws: The Revenge is so incompetent it’s kind of entertaining. Jaws 3-D is just boring. It is also — at least on home video — not in 3-D, which does the already murky matte effects no favors. The director, Joe Alves, worked as the production designer on Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, and was one of the key creative forces behind the “Bruce” mechanical shark. Whatever his gifts with practical effects, he is, if you’ll pardon the absolutely dreadful pun, out of his depth in the world of underwater 3-D:
The one novel twist on the Jaws formula in Jaws 3-D (besides the 3-D, I guess, when it was first released in theaters) is the idea — and this is technically a SPOILER so beware if you’ve been meaning to watch the terrible second sequel to Jaws but have been putting it off for 35 years — that there are actually two sharks in the film, a baby and a mother. After Mike Brody and SeaWorld’s chief biologist (Bess Armstrong) capture the baby and it dies in captivity, the mama comes a’calling, and she is none too pleased.
Wikipedia tells me sharks don’t mother their young, meaning this storyline doesn’t make a lot of sense. You know what else doesn’t make a lot of sense? The entire Jaws franchise, which is predicated on the Atlantic Ocean shark community’s endless war on the Brody family. Within the fictional universe of Jaws, a mommy shark getting pissed off that her baby shark is kidnapped and killed is one of the more plausible occurrences.
The problem with Jaws 3-D’s story isn’t its scientific accuracy; the problem is that the shark is cast as the villain of the story when it’s really its hero. On paper, the premise — someone vows revenge for the cruel and undeserved death of a loved one — is basically Death Wish, with a shark in the Charles Bronson role. (If anyone can Photoshop Charles Bronson’s hair onto a shark’s head, send it to me.) I recognize sharks are not people, but making a movie about a vengeful shark who kind of has a point and then treating it like a monster is sort of weird. Would you remake Death Wish with the gangsters who murder Bronson’s wife as the good guys?
(Fun fact, the Jaws 3-D screenplay — which is basically a ripoff of Orca: The Killer Whale, which was itself a ripoff of the original Jaws — was written by Carl Gottlieb, a co-writer of Jaws, and acclaimed sci-fi novelist Richard Matheson, making it maybe the worst script by the most overqualified writing team in Hollywood history.)
On the plus side, you may find this GIF of Dennis Quaid discovering one of the shark’s victims for the first time useful in your social media travels:
Otherwise: Jaws 3-D is highly skippable.
Does It Belong On a List of the Worst Movies Ever Made?
Bad? You betcha. Epically, historically terrible? Nah. This is your standard cash-in sequel: Shoddily shot, awkwardly plotted, indifferently acted (although Lou Gossett Jr. comes closest to giving a good performance as SeaWorld manager Calvin Bouchard). I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone except completists. For the second week in a row, I’m left wondering what the heck IMDb users were thinking when they voted on these movies.
Jaws 3-D is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime. Next week on another Halloween month edition of The IMDB.O. List: Prepare for the next generation in chainsaw massacres.
My Personal Ranking of the IMDB.O. List So Far From Worst to Least Crappy
- The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure
- The Master of Disguise
- The Avengers
- Jaws 3-D
- Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever
Gallery - The Worst Movie Posters Ever Made: