THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We’re hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!
Jaws 2 (1978)
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc
"Jaws 2 is a perfectly entertaining shark attack movie with effective scares, stunts, and swimming sharks"
Summer time has officially started (well, close enough) so what a better time to examine the type of movie that focuses on everything that could go horribly wrong with your summer vacation. Now we all know the original Jaws is a true masterpiece, one that all summer blockbusters have to look up to forever. The thing changed not only the way studios released films, but how they made them. However, the inevitable sequel also set the bar for summer blockbuster sequels because, let’s say it together, “They’re never as good as the original.”
And that's true. Jaws 2 isn't Jaws. It's not even f*cking close. Nevertheless, if you look at it all by itself, Jaws 2 is a perfectly entertaining shark attack movie with effective scares, stunts, and swimming sharks (got desperate in that alliteration).
Jaws 2 had issues from the start as most of the cast that mattered didn’t return and the director who made it all work (Spielberg obviously) kept working on Close Encounters of the Third Kind with the only other star who could've returned. Nevertheless, it’s not like those kind of obstacles have ever stopped a studio before.
The sequel brings us back to Amity where the town has endured after that man-eating shark thing blew over. In fact, most everyone seems at ease about it all except for the one lone major returning cast member: Mr. Roy Scheider.
And he’s what really works about Jaws 2. Oh sure, without Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw to swap various wound stories with, the sequel sorely lacks the spirit of the original. (Especially Shaw, who deserved a damn Oscar for that performance. Hell, he’s my image whenever I have to picture a sea type dude).
Anyway, we now have a damaged Police Chief Brody. He’s paranoid that a whole lot of killer sharks remain out there, lurking and ready to chomp on every dummy who dares to swim in the ocean. Who can blame the guy for being a little messed up? Of course, the minute he suspects that another shark has returned, everyone thinks he’s nuts, notably when he opens fire at the beach on a school of fish in one of the best scenes in the movie. Schneider owns it and nearly every other scene he's in. I do think that they could've pushed him a little more (like a sweaty crazy dude scanning over sea maps or a lot of pie charts) in order to make this a redemption story, but this is his baby.
Despite the impossible task of following Spielberg’s masterpiece, director Jeannot Szwarc (who mostly had TV credits to his name like Kojak and is still pumping out TV shows today) brings some moments to Jaws 2. (It should be noted that Szwarc took over a month into shooting after John D. Hancock was canned.) For what he had to worked with, he delivered some fantastically tense attack sequences. Since we don't have hardened (or faux hardened) dudes this time, we have a gaggle of teens, who all convey the fear most of us would have in their situation. I'm surprised no one pissed their pants. I know I would've.
For Jaws 2 to have really worked it needed tighter editing (two hours seems a bit much this time) and someone for Brody to play with besides his wife and eventual Jaws 4 star Lorraine Gary (who stopped acting after that one). She’s good, but Brody needed some buddies, not just his wife and kids to interact with. No film will ever recapture what Spielberg accomplished, but at least this one still can entertain and ruin a lot of people's good times in the ocean.