Review: ‘Piranha 3DD’ doubles down on dumb, without the fun

Summer isn’t supposed to be dumping season in Hollywood. And yet “Piranha 3DD” follows “Chernobyl Diaries” as the second dreadfully derivative piece of horror garbage released in as many weeks.

First, let’s just get it out of the way: Yes, the sequel to 2010’s “Piranha 3D” is called “Piranha 3DD.” Yes, it’s a stupid and immature joke, and yes, it’s the funniest thing the movie has to offer, by far.

The Weinstein Company clearly knows they’ve got a piece of junk on their hands, which they’ve decided to bury with an ultra-limited theatrical run in less than 100 theaters nationwide and an experimental VOD day-and-date release. Since the film is no better, and often worse, than direct-to-DVD quality, selecting the cheaper home viewing option is the only way to go. So bravo — or something — to Weinstein for making it available that way.

“Piranha 3DD” retains all of the gratuitous nudity and graphic violence of its cheerfully dumb yet surprisingly fun predecessor, but none of the playful wit, loony inventiveness or unexpectedly solid performances (the only returning cast members — Christopher Lloyd and Ving Rhames — simply try not to look too embarrassed in their cameo appearances). Instead the sequel is like a grade-Z rip-off of the first movie’s B-movie charms. It would feel right at home on late night Cinemax.

Even the most sensational elements — a dismembered male member, nude bathing beauties filmed underwater — are borrowed from the original. But where the original served its trash with a knowing wink, and put some actual flair and finesse into sequences like the stark-naked submarine ballet, the sequel lurches through scenes like it’s working its way through a mundane exploitation movie checklist: naked girl here, severed limb there, and so on.

What’s supposed to pass for freshness: David Hasselhoff lamely spoofing his D-list celebrity status as a guest lifeguard at “The Big Wet” water park. That’s where the film’s centerpiece bloodbath occurs. Owner David Koechner doesn’t believe the piranhas can possibly get in, his non-nonsense stepdaughter Danielle Panabaker tries to warn him otherwise. You know the drill. The filmmakers do too, and dutifully regurgitate the clichés on screen in a “story” that feels no more developed than an outline with sketches in the margins.

It would be a stretch to claim the characters are defined, they’re simply introduced, but Panabaker gets a love triangle with strapping sheriff’s deputy Chris Zylka and runty geek Matt Bush. She also has a cute blonde friend played by “30 Rock’s” Katrina Bowden, who at one point winds up with a piranha where you’d least expect. Or maybe most expect in a movie like this.

Every attempt at horror and suspense is so shockingly inept “Piranha 3DD” might actually be hilarious if it wasn’t so pathetic. The film’s sparse humor lands like lead balloons and the piranha visual effects resemble tacky cartoons just a few levels above SyFy Channel monsters.

“Piranha 3DD” has been assembled with such resounding lack of imagination and style it’s surprising director John Gulager (“Feast”) and the three (!) credited screenwriters (Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan and Joel Soisson) even want their names on the final product.  The mercifully brief 70 minute running time (plus 11 minutes of end credits and outtakes) is a good indication of how little actually happens. But it’s no excuse for how little effort went into making a film worth any time at all.

“Piranha 3DD” opens in limited release and is available via video on demand June 1