Movies & TV / Columns

Misunderstood Masterpieces: Jaws 2

May 23, 2006 | Posted by Will Helm

Here in the United States, Memorial Day is coming up and, with it, the unofficial start of the summer tourism season. As many around the country prepare for the traditional trip to the nearest large body of water, the next three movies show how that sometimes can be a very bad idea. Of course, there was already a film that proved that seemingly placid bodies of water can be filled with dangers – and it wasn’t Lake Placid; it was 1975’s smash hit Jaws. In this legendary movie, a GIANT great white shark terrorized the unlikely seashore town of Amity, Massachusetts, until the dude from SeaQuest DSV, Richard Dreyfuss, and Red Grant conspired to bring it down. Jaws was one of the first films to truly be referred to as a “blockbuster” and, in Hollywood, that can only mean one thing: sequels.

The inevitable sequel came along three years after the original and brought back only a few of the stars of the first film. Capt. Nathan Bridger was there, along with his family – half of which transformed into entirely different actors – as well as random characters from the first film. Shocking by their disappearance were Robert Shaw (mainly because his character was killed in the first movie . . . ooh, spoiler!); Richard Dreyfuss; and the director of the first film, Stephen Spielberg. The latter two absences could be explained away easily, as both actor and director were working on Close Encounters of the Third Kind at the time but, while nowadays companies would delay production until key figures such as them are available, the makers of Jaws 2 – the aforementioned sequel – pressed ahead and, in doing so, may have made themselves a Misunderstood Masterpiece in the process. Of course, I still have to be the one to judge it, so let’s find out!

Deep in some blue, cloudy water . . . the opening credits appear! After the first few introductory notes, a lonely diver arrives on the scene, accompanied by his buddy. Well, I guess he’s the not-so-lonely diver, then. Meanwhile, the fish in the area are panicky for no particular reason; then again, fish are always panicky, so maybe I’m reading too much into this. On the seabed, the divers find a mysterious wire; ah . . . so that’s where the term “pirated cable” comes from. Then again, perhaps it’s not someone watching illegal broadcasts of HBO’s Real Sex unless they’re doing so on the wreck of the Orca, the famed ship from the first film! Ah, continuity! The divers, instead of investigating the wreckage, elect to goof off and pose for pictures with the dilapidated hull as a background. After a few photos, a shark gets tired of the lack of reverence and eats the divers! Go get ‘em, Jaws!

Over in the town of Amity, Massachusetts, the local Chief of Police, Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) drives his GIANT old GMC onto a ferry and impatiently waits for the ferry to cross the bay. Or the cape. It’s always so confusing once you get down to those small bodies of water. Once on the other side of the random small body of water, the Chief Brody drives out into the middle of nowhere . . . and a marching band is playing there. That’s an odd place to put a high school football stadium. Actually, it’s not a stadium at all but a brand new Holiday Inn! Ah, product placement. After Chief Brody surreptitiously sneaks into the festivities – he was late; he’s not crashing the party – his goodly wife Ellen (Lorraine Gary) complains to him about just how boring the soiree has been. I hope this doesn’t turn Jaws into a domestic drama.

After some random teenage HOT CHICK cuts a ribbon in the middle of the swimming pool, the sleazy mayor of Amity, Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) sends everyone to the back of the hotel for punch and cookies. While the grown-ups hobnob, local teens hang out at the party for no particular reason and complain about how boring the event has been. Hmm . . . where have I heard that before? Meanwhile, near the water’s edge, Napoleon Dynamite – or at least his ‘70s facsimile – mopes about his unhappy lovelife while his buddy lusts after the random teenage HOT CHICK. Doesn’t he know he doesn’t have a chance with her? He’s just not verbally abusive enough. On the dance floor, Chief Brody dances with his wife and, because – as has been said already ad nauseam – the get-together is just so boring, they decide to skip out for some nookie. Down in the bay, a shark fin appears ominously; maybe he’s a voyeur shark and he’s looking for someone having nookie too.

The next day, Chief Brody drives down to the local dock and he finds his deputy (Jeffrey Kramer) there tending to the police’s only boat. While the deputy yells at some old guy, Chief Brody sends the deputy out to investigate the divers’ boat from the very beginning of the film. Meanwhile, at another part of the docks, a bunch of teens work and hang out and, while some goofing around commences, another random teenage HOT CHICK shows up. Unfortunately, the presence of another random teenage HOT CHICK just causes Napoleon Dynamite to mope about his nerdy proclivities all the more – I do hope he gets eaten by the end of the movie – while all the other guys lust after her, mainly because she’s new and probably doesn’t have all the social diseases that the local girls do. Well, she doesn’t have them YET, at least.

At the police station, some whiny fat guy complains to Chief Brody about something or other but, luckily for the chief, the deputy shows up to rescue him from the tumult of angry locals. After the deputy gives Chief Brody the divers’ camera, Chief Brody sends the deputy out to investigate some old guy’s complaints of a naughty woman seducing the old man’s son. How dare she! It might encourage self-abuse! Out in the local nondescript body of water, some random, unidentified teenager parasails and repeatedly dips into and out of the water. Geez . . . that’s like casting a wet fly for the shark. And, unsurprisingly, the shark arrives and swims in wait for another dip but, alas, the shark gets impatient and decides to follow a water-skier instead.

Meanwhile, on a secluded beach, some guy and the first random teenage HOT CHICK make out. For some reason, she gets cold feet and then, perhaps to warm up her feet, she runs off to the top of a dune and waves at the water-skier for no particular reason. Hmm . . . maybe it’s a signal for a threesome or something. The random teenage HOT CHICK, perhaps now with warm feet once again, runs back to her boyfriend and tells him she wants to go skiing; unsurprisingly, he says “no,” mainly because he has needs . . . and his most pressing need at the moment is to tap a random teenage HOT CHICK.

Out in the water, the skier glides along merrily while her seeming lesbian lover drives the boat ahead. The shark, perhaps smelling something fishy, follows along and patiently waits for the skier to screw up so he can have some lunch. After a few minutes, however, the shark gets impatient with the skier’s skills so it just puts on the overdrive and picks off the skier! Go get ‘em, Jaws! After a few minutes of piloting the boat along absent-mindedly, the skier’s lesbian lover finally turns around and notices that her life partner is now gone, leaving behind half a ski to remember her by. The shark, perhaps fearful of implied homosexuality in its movie, attacks the boat and, through a convoluted series of events, blows it up. Ah . . . no witnesses. Unfortunately, there are more witnesses, as some old lady sees the whole thing, along with the random teenage HOT CHICK and her beau. Oh yeah, Jaws is coming for you, granny. And those meddling kids too.

Back in town, Chief Brody swings into action; meanwhile, out at sea, the deputy is busy investigating the divers’ boat and the waterskiing accident and complaining all the while. On the case, Chief Brody is concerned about just what’s going down in his town; the deputy, on the other hand, dredges up a power line and hightails it from the scene of whatever it was that he was investigating. The next morning, Chief Brody and his family share breakfast together and Chief Brody’s eldest son, Mike (Mark Gruner), reveals himself to be a slacker and, counterproductively, his mother defends his lazy ways. Yup . . . family drama. And some random shark attacks. This isn’t going well.

At one of the many local lighthouses, the random teenage HOT CHICK goofs around and the rest of the teens chill out and cavort. After a little bit of frolicking, the fun comes to a halt as the random teenage HOT CHICK finds a decomposing, half-eaten killer whale on the beach. Wow . . . that’s the second wreck of an orca this film has had. Once more, Chief Brody – who must have the world’s fastest GMC, since he can be on the scene of an ocean-related crime in mere moments – arrives while some woman and the deputy measure the whale. Chief Brody, since he supposedly has some experience in the matter, thinks a shark did the deed but, for some reason known only to the filmmakers, the woman doesn’t believe him. After an argument nearly breaks out, the woman then gives Chief Brody an IMPORTANT PLOT POINT: sharks are attracted to rhythmic noises underwater. So they’re going to lure the shark to shore with boom boxes? Anyway, after the woman refuses to give a definitive answer on the killer whale’s cause of death, Chief Brody states that he thinks a shark might be out for REVENGE . . . and then he grounds his son for no particular reason.

Back in Amity, Chief Brody meets with the sleazy mayor to tell him about this new (possible) shark. After Chief Brody says his peace, the skeptical mayor voices his misgivings and then they just end up arguing. You’d think that the town would be a little more open to Chief Brody’s concerns considering he lived through all this once before; then again, I guess that wouldn’t make for much of a movie. Out on the beach, Chief Brody stumbles onto a clue floating in the water. He takes time to take his shoes off to retrieve it but, once at the floating detritus, he’s attacked by a corpse hidden underneath! Oh no . . . the shark has an army of zombies at its disposal now!

Later that evening, Chief Brody sits in his office and ritualistically fills the hollow points of his bullets with cyanide. Hmm . . . is that for the shark or for the zombies? His ritual is then interrupted by the deputy, but Chief Brody busies his associate by telling the deputy to investigate the divers’ camera. Something tells me that Chief Brody is just a figurehead in town and the deputy is really the one that does all the work. After sending the hardworking deputy on his way, Chief Brody goes home and, much to his chagrin, his well-meaning wife pesters him about his job. Speaking of jobs, Chief Brody has one for his older son, Mike; his wife, unfortunately, protests Mike’s employment. That kid is never going to grow up with parenting like that.

The next day, on the beach, plenty of corpulent American shark fodder is out killing time and, for some reason, eating. Luckily for them, Chief Brody stands guard in his watchtower, waiting for any indication of a shark in the water. Meanwhile, down on the ground, the real-estate guy and the sleazy mayor – along with Ellen Brody – give some investors a tour of the shoreline. While the tour commences, Ellen looks up to see Chief Brody in his perch and she’s suspicious of his motives; the mayor, on the other hand, just thinks that Chief Brody is crazy. Elsewhere, Chief Brody’s son works but he isn’t happy about it, since he just wants to go sailing with his annoying teenaged friends. I guess it’s just not “cool” to be a responsible, productive citizen.

While the investors are distracted by something or other, the sleazy mayor and the real-estate guy conspire to get Chief Brody down from the watchtower. Unfortunately for them, even though they try to cover up just what Chief Brody is doing up there, some random little girl discovers their ruse. Something tells me she’ll be liquidated by nightfall. While the sleazy mayor and the real-estate guy are busy trying to figure out how to get Chief Brody down and dispose of a nosy little girl as well, Chief Brody spots an anomaly in the water and he freaks out! Chief Brody, acting on his finely honed instincts, clears the beach and then he unloads his gun . . . into a school of bluefish. Due to Chief Brody’s unfortunate faux pas, now everyone thinks he’s crazy . . . except for his younger son, Sean (Marc Gilpin).

Now a pariah to the community, Chief Brody sits alone in his office; while he’d gladly just drown his sorrows in cheap whiskey and cheaper women, his sulking is interrupted by a phone call from the local film developer. It seems that the local film developer has incriminating photos from the divers’ camera! Apparently, they were violating sodomy laws in international waters . . . and it’s all on film. In addition, he also happens to have some blurry photos of what may or may not be a shark’s head. Chief Brody, now with incontrovertible proof in hand, rushes over to the town council and, after showing them the damning picture . . . they still think he’s crazy. Of course, Chief Brody presses the issue, so the real-estate guy yells at him and then the council elects to study the matter in private in lieu of another argument breaking out with the mentally unstable Chief Brody.

Over at the town’s local hangout, the teens drink beer and party like it’s 1978 . . . which it is. Unfortunately for Mike, he’s the victim of ridicule as his new job has put a downer on his social life; meanwhile, the rest of the teens plan a picnic and a party for the next day. Mike, rather than standing on the outside looking in, is somehow conned into joining up by some annoying random teenage HOT CHICK and her feminine wiles. Later, Chief Brody goes home in an apparent drunken stupor and he finds his wife and the deputy together! They’re only talking, though, since the deputy brought bad tidings ahead of Chief Brody or, more appropriately, the now unemployed Brody. Brody, now finally off the deep end, gives his badge to the deputy and then, after the new chief takes his leave, he confides in his wife because he’s a wreck due to the fact that he’s never been fired before. Except for that time when he was seventeen . . . and he didn’t know that it was the governor’s trophy wife!

The next morning, Mike tries to sneak out of the house so that he can go party with his friends but Sean catches him and blackmails him into taking him along as well. Down at the docks, the two Brody boys go sailing and, in perhaps one of the greatest miracles in film history, Napoleon Dynamite picks up a chick. Meanwhile, the mayor’s sleazy, future domestic abuser of a son yells at his buddy for reasons not fully explained. More than likely, sexual frustration and steroids were involved. Once at sea, the armada of teens comes upon some divers going down for lobster; hmm . . . and I always thought that going down followed the lobster, not preceded it. Anyway, while the divers take to the water and search for their prey, the shark munches on one of their number; luckily, he makes it to the surface slightly alive.

Perhaps more interested in having something younger and more tender for dinner, the shark follows the teens and their sad little dinghies. Meanwhile, back at Brody’s home, he mopes around and plots his REVENGE against the real-estate guy. At sea, two teens break off from the pack to make some nookie plans. Before they can engage in a little premarital copulation, the shark appears out of nowhere and it capsizes the boat! For the shark, that must be like cracking a nutshell to get at the sweet meats inside. Anyway, the shark knocks the guy in the boat overboard, leaving the random teenage HOT CHICK in the boat to watch as the shark grabs her beau and then rams him into the side of the boat at high velocity before having him for dinner. Yup . . . no witnesses. This shark is good. Unsurprisingly, as her boyfriend is now shark food, the random teenage HOT CHICK freaks out.

On mainland, Brody, while driving his wife to work, chases an ambulance down to the docks where he finds them picking up . . . the unlucky, slightly alive diver! While Brody surveys the activity, the new chief spills the beans about the teens’ little jaunt out to sea, much to Brody’s chagrin. Brody, now on a mission to save his eldest son, hijacks the police boat; the chief, rather than arresting his former boss, decides to come along and help instead. Meanwhile, the teens, for no reason other than because they’re young and rebellious, plan to go past the lighthouse – their original destination – because one of them knows “a better spot.” I think he forgot to add “to be eaten by a shark” to the end of that statement.

Brody, along with the chief and, for some reason, his wife, finds the shark-eaten kid’s boat and, apparently, the random teenage HOT CHICK is gone! I guess she interred herself in the briny deep at the loss of her lover . . . or not, as she’s merely cowering and catatonic in the bow of the boat. As she is now an important eyewitness who can clear Brody’s name, he sends the random teenage HOT CHICK off with the chief and his wife and then he continues on to search for the teens. Speaking of the teens, in some uncharted point at sea, the nerd’s boat starts sinking . . . and the shark discerns that it’s a good time to get some brain food. Luckily, the nerd escapes unscathed but chaos ensues and most of the teens fall into the water or wreck their boats. In the tumult, Mike is knocked unconscious and the shark, perhaps sensing an opportunity for REVENGE, heads toward Brody’s scion. The rest of the teens get him out of harm’s way in time and then the only intact boat takes him to safety; the remaining teens attempt to fashion a flotilla using their wrecked vessels.

While the teens assemble a superboat out of their individual crafts, Brody heads to the lighthouse and, along the way, he learns that his air support has chickened out on him. Brody, therefore, is left all alone; the teens, meanwhile, aren’t quite alone, but they do mope around . . . until the air patrol that wasn’t supposed to show up arrives on the scene! The helpful, bearded helicopter pilot plans on towing the teens to safety so he has them tie their makeshift raft to his helicopter. The concept is fine in theory . . . until the shark shows up and eats the helicopter! OK. Seriously. You have got to be kidding me. Next thing you know, the shark is going to suddenly grow legs and take to the land. In the ensuing chaos, the shark eats some random girl who was babysitting Sean. I don’t think her name was ever mentioned, so she’s just “random shark fodder #1.”

In Amity, the chief goes to work while Ellen and the real-estate guy argue over something or other. Meanwhile, Brody cruises around aimlessly and shudders in fear as a squall drifts in. At the teens’ slowly degrading watercraft, Sean is catatonic and alone but the other teens try to rescue him instead of leaving him be. Of course, the rescue goes off without a hitch . . . until one of the teens starts hugging Sean a little too tight. I wonder if he’s interested in joining a seminary. Yup . . . I’m going to hell for that one. Once more, the teens start freaking out and going batty while another random teenage HOT CHICK is catatonic . . . specifically the one that conned Mike into coming along. I think that’s karmic justice, personally.

Elsewhere, Brody spies a sailboat coming toward him and on it he finds two teens and his son Mike . . . who he yells at again for no particular reason. The teens, near to a small island with a power station on top – perhaps because some like it hot and some sweat when the heat is on – run aground while trying to reach the island. Of course, since their plan is now in peril, they all start arguing until the batty one calms them down. Just when the situation cools off, Brody arrives on the scene! Unfortunately, before any rescue can commence, the shark gets in the way because it’s looking for REVENGE! Brody, perhaps not expecting the shark to be there, panics and crashes into the nearby island and, once there, he devises another plan. While Brody plots, the shark waits patiently and then it attacks the teens again, some of whom wisely elect to swim for the island. Brody, meanwhile, dredges up a power line and, while the shark terrorizes the remaining teens, Brody beats on the wire rhythmically. Ah . . . I see IMPORTANT PLOT POINTS are paying off. The shark, a victim of its own instincts, bites the power line and bursts into flames . . . and there is much rejoicing and end credits.

In total, Jaws 2 is an overly long and mostly boring film. There isn’t enough action overall and there’s far too much manufactured drama – e.g. Brody vs. the mayor, Brody vs. the real-estate guy, Brody vs. Mike, etc. What makes this even more interesting is that the film takes place largely in two halves; the first half contains most of the family drama and the second half has most of the action . . . but the first half was so boring that it degrades the second. In addition, the bulk of the shark’s victims are either annoying – so you’re kind of glad they’re dead – or inconsequential – any victim that isn’t a teenager – that the shark is never really a threat. It’s just a big fish with a penchant for running into boats and ruining people’s days.

Join me next week as we see what happens when another, totally different shark arrives to terrorize a bunch of new and interesting people . . . in 3-D! See you then!

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Will Helm

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