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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Piranha 3D

By
Joseph P. McCarthy
Source: Catholic News Service

The link between committing sins of the flesh and becoming a victim in a horror movie was never more blatant than in the tall and tawdry fish tale "Piranha 3D" (Dimension).

Just as retribution awaits the film's most wanton characters, audience members who venture into its blood-filled waters seeking an escape will feel as though they're being punished. While the tone adopted is hardly self-serious or censorious, the story is cripplingly vacuous. There aren't enough ideas to make "Piranha 3D" remotely unsettling; and the lasciviousness and gore displayed are more wearisome than offensive or frightening.

"Babes, boats and bikinis" is one (mild) description of the scene at Arizona's Lake Victoria, where undergrads flock for their spring-break bacchanalia. This year, seismic activity causes a fissure in the lake bed that releases prehistoric fish with an appetite for slatternly coeds and the otherwise ethically challenged. In a rather pitiful homage to "Jaws," the first victim of these voracious creatures is a local fisherman played by Richard Dreyfuss.

Not only does Lake Victoria's sheriff Julie Forester (Elisabeth Shue) have to worry about the safety of the throngs of scantily clad visitors, her teenage son Jake (Steven R. McQueen) and his much-younger siblings Zane and Laura (Sage Ryan and Brooklynn Proulx) are also imperiled. Jake has shirked his baby-sitting duties to act as location scout for soft-core pornographer Derrick Jones. Jerry O'Connell sinks his bleached incisors into this role, which is clearly modeled on real-life "Girls Gone Wild" impresario Joe Francis.

Jones and the predatory fish have nothing on director Alexandre Aja's voyeuristic camera, which takes as much prurient delight in watching gyrating bodies in party mode as it does in showing them get shredded and dismembered.

Anyone hoping there might be a silver lining in the fact that 3-D technology is being used here for something other than an animated or science-fiction feature will be disappointed. The underwater action is generally murky and the special effects deployed above the surface are equally pedestrian. Stomach-churning makeup work is the only exception.

At the peak of the mayhem, Sheriff Forester gives the panicking hordes this obvious advice, "Whatever you do, don't go into the water!" Heed her counsel and refrain from jutting even a toe into this piece of exploitation cinema.

The film contains intense graphic violence, including a decapitation, numerous severed torsos, and other mutilated and dismembered bodies and body parts; full frontal female nudity; much groping and kissing, some of it same-sex; frequent profane, rough and crude language; repeated scenes of underage drinking; and an instance of drug use. The Catholic News Service classification is O—morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

*****
Joseph P. McCarthy is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.


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Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions: Andrew Dung-Lac was one of 117 people martyred in Vietnam between 1820 and 1862. Members of this group were beatified on four different occasions between 1900 and 1951. All were canonized by St. John Paul II. 
<p>Christianity came to Vietnam (then three separate kingdoms) through the Portuguese. Jesuits opened the first permanent mission at Da Nang in 1615. They ministered to Japanese Catholics who had been driven from Japan. </p><p>The king of one of the kingdoms banned all foreign missionaries and tried to make all Vietnamese deny their faith by trampling on a crucifix. Like the priest-holes in Ireland during English persecution, many hiding places were offered in homes of the faithful. </p><p>Severe persecutions were again launched three times in the 19th century. During the six decades after 1820, between 100,000 and 300,000 Catholics were killed or subjected to great hardship. Foreign missionaries martyred in the first wave included priests of the Paris Mission Society, and Spanish Dominican priests and tertiaries. </p><p>Persecution broke out again in 1847 when the emperor suspected foreign missionaries and Vietnamese Christians of sympathizing with a rebellion led by of one of his sons. </p><p>The last of the martyrs were 17 laypersons, one of them a 9-year-old, executed in 1862. That year a treaty with France guaranteed religious freedom to Catholics, but it did not stop all persecution. </p><p>By 1954 there were over a million and a half Catholics—about seven percent of the population—in the north. Buddhists represented about 60 percent. Persistent persecution forced some 670,000 Catholics to abandon lands, homes and possessions and flee to the south. In 1964, there were still 833,000 Catholics in the north, but many were in prison. In the south, Catholics were enjoying the first decade of religious freedom in centuries, their numbers swelled by refugees. </p><p>During the Vietnamese war, Catholics again suffered in the north, and again moved to the south in great numbers. Now the whole country is under Communist rule.</p> American Catholic Blog To replace our sins with virtues may seem like a daunting task, but fortunately we can follow the example of the saints who have 
successfully defeated these sins in their lifetimes. They provide us with a way forward so that we, too, can live holy, virtuous lives.

 
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