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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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Anthony Zaccaria: At the same time that Martin Luther was attacking abuses in the Church, a reformation within the Church was already being attempted. Among the early movers of the Counter-Reformation was Anthony Zaccaria. His mother became a widow at 18 and devoted herself to the spiritual education of her son. He received a medical doctorate at 22 and, while working among the poor of his native Cremona in Italy, was attracted to the religious apostolate. He renounced his rights to any future inheritance, worked as a catechist and was ordained a priest at the age of 26. Called to Milan in a few years, he laid the foundations of three religious congregations, one for men and one for women, plus an association of married couples. Their aim was the reform of the decadent society of their day, beginning with the clergy, religious and lay people. 
<p>Greatly inspired by St. Paul (his congregation is named the Barnabites, after the companion of that saint), Anthony preached with great vigor in church and street, conducted popular missions and was not ashamed of doing public penance. </p><p>He encouraged such innovations as the collaboration of the laity in the apostolate, frequent Communion, the Forty Hours devotion and the ringing of church bells at 3:00 p.m. on Fridays. </p><p>His holiness moved many to reform their lives but, as with all saints, it also moved many to oppose him. Twice his community had to undergo official religious investigation, and twice it was exonerated. </p><p>While on a mission of peace, he became seriously ill and was brought home for a visit to his mother. He died at Cremona at the age of 36.</p> American Catholic Blog Lord, help me make my life more about you and less about me. May others see you in me—your image and likeness. Teach me ways to increase my time with you, my service to others, and my love for my family, for strangers, and for the poor. You are the light in the darkness. With each new day, may we be light to one another.

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