Review: The Shallows
PLOT: A surfer (Blake Lively) exploring a hidden beach, finds herself stranded, with 200 yards and a hungry, man-eating shark in-between her and the shore.
REVIEW: Who knew that a shark movie could be so boring? While THE SHALLOWS has been on the receiving end of some pretty solid reviews, with many expecting it to become one of the sleeper hits of the summer, the finished film is one that squanders every opportunity for suspense, paling in comparison to even the weaker JAWS entries (minus the execrable fourth one) or the more recent OPEN WATER.
A star vehicle for Blake Lively, for about ninety-five percent of the film she’s alone on screen save for a comic-relief bird with a broken wing (note the symbolism) she names Steven Seagull and a poorly-rendered 3D shark, who looks like the infamous Bruce’s mutant offspring. Occasionally a well-meaning surfer or drunken beachcomber will wander in to get killed and supply us with some PG-13 carnage. Even for a killer shark movie, THE SHALLOWS is tough to swallow, with the shark here not even bothering to eat most of its victims, rather straight-up murdering them while the (initially) helpless Lively looks-on.
Part of the reason THE SHALLOWS is getting such decent reviews has to be for the fact that it gives the talented Lively a chance at a solo star-vehicle, with her mostly wasted as eye-candy in everything since her breakout (post Gossip Girl) part in Ben Affleck’s THE TOWN. Once a finalist for Sandra Bullock’s part in GRAVITY, this gives us a glimpse at how her performance might have gone, and to give her some credit, she’s better than the script requires.
One thing that might have helped would have been to make Lively’s heroine a little more three-dimensional. As it is she’s so perfect and ably suited to her predicament that the film is never really exciting. We see early on that she’s not only a professional-level surfer, but also a med-school student, who’s so cool and collected that when her leg gets torn open that she’s able to patch it up using an earring and some of her wetsuit. Making her more of an average person would have been more exciting, as if you think back to all the best thrillers of this ilk, the suspense usually comes out of just how average the lead is.
Then again, there’s nothing average about Lively…
Apparently shot on a miniscule budget, THE SHALLOWS suffers from some dodgy fx, especially as far as the shark goes, but in the end it probably doesn’t matter as the biggest special effect here is Lively herself. Stunningly decked-out in a teeny-weeny bikini, she’s never looked better, with generous shots of her toned, picture-perfect bod photographed lovingly by director Jaume Collet-Serra and DP Flavio Labiano. Yet, once Lively gets stranded ever her compelling presence isn’t enough to keep the film interesting as it merely becomes a “get hurt, recover, try to dodge shark, get hurt, recover” formula that’s repeated over-and-over, making this feel pretty long despite only being eighty-five minutes. It lacks the cheese factor that rescued many other bad shark movies (like JAWS 3D or DEEP BLUE SEA) and anyone who compares this to the original JAWS is out to lunch, as the craft on display here isn’t even a patch on that classic.
While teens and non-discerning horror buffs might be enough to make this minor hit, with a few tweaks THE SHALLOWS could have been a really solid summer thriller. As it is, despite Lively, it feels like a disposable film, good for one moderately entertaining watch – and then discarded. It’s not awful, but it’s pretty low-rent.