Have you ever come across those very short video movie reviews? Like, “Seven Second Reviews,” or whatever they are called? This is where the host (who usually has a nice voice) will give a quick rundown of the plot, and will then announce some sort of catchphrase that signifies whether he or she likes the movie – something like, “Do it to it,” or, “Giddy up,” or, “Can a bitch get a donut?,” or whatever. Anyway, it’s with a movie like The Shallows I wish I could use that format. Because the gist is “Blake Lively spends 90 minutes trying to avoid a shark. I liked it.” I wouldn’t even need seven seconds to say that. I would need three seconds, tops.
(I do wonder if the hosts of these shows ever worry about a competitor coming along and dropping a second from the review. I imagine the thought of this would make the host of the longer version make a face like Harland Williams makes in There’s Something About Mary.)
In The Shallows, Blake Lively plays Nancy Adams, a woman who is trying to avoid being eaten by a shark. What’s weird here is that I know things about Nancy’s personal life, even though I don’t really care and I have no idea why the film thinks we need this exposition at all. In the span of a few early minutes of the movie, we learn her mom had died of cancer and her dad (Brett Cullen, on FaceTime) is upset that Nancy may not be returning to medical school to complete her studies.
You see, Nancy is a surfer. Now, she doesn’t get the kind of surf in Texas like she’s chasing in Mexico, but she can handle herself riding a wave. (It’s at this point I just realized I don’t know any surfer slang.) But her mom once told her of a secret beach in Mexico, and now Nancy is on her way to that very beach.
(We are also told that Nancy was supposed to go to this beach with her friend, but her friend is too hungover to attend. This sounds like a terrible friend. The whole purpose of this trip is so Nancy can visit a beach in an effort to share an experience with her deceased mother, but her friend drank too much and wanted to sleep. Then again, if Nancy’s friend had come, she probably would have been eaten by a shark.)
Anyway, all that, including a phone call with her little sister (who Nancy calls “sis,” just like no one in real life does) is dispensed with early and we are soon left with “Blake Lively v Shark: Dawn of Jawstice.” (Sorry.)
I enjoyed this movie. It’s exactly what I thought it would be. It’s not corny, even though it easily could have been. I knew with director Jaume Collet-Serra involved, it wouldn’t be corny. So when I say, “it’s exactly what I thought it would be,” that’s as someone who likes Non-Stop, Unknown, and Run All Night. I look at Collet-Serra as someone who does “tight action” very well.
And it’s pretty intense! You never know when this Giant Shark is going to leap out of the water right into your face. It’s water terror porn, basically. Just when you think Nancy has caught a break, whelp, here comes the jellyfish. (Which reminded me a lot of the scene in Twister when Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt enter a shed full of knives – as if the F5 tornado isn’t dangerous enough on its own.)
Anyway, that’s about it. I really don’t know what else you could possibly want to know about The Shallows. This is not a movie heavy on plot. And, yes, there are a few moments that seem to be there just to extend this movie to 90 minutes. In a perfect world, this movie should be an hour, but people would probably be mad if they paid full price for a movie that’s an hour long. But here we are. What a world … a world where the “Blake Lively v Shark” movie is pretty enjoyable. (Also: I don’t think I like sharks very much.)
Mike Ryan lives in New York City and has written for The Huffington Post, Wired, Vanity Fair and New York magazine. He is senior entertainment writer at Uproxx. You can contact him directly on Twitter.