Wednesday 28 September 2016

A Lively shark caper that's lush but unintentionally hilarious

Hilary A White

Published 08/08/2016 | 02:30

Blake Lively gives a Great White a run for its money in The Shallows
Blake Lively gives a Great White a run for its money in The Shallows

Spare a thought for the poor Great White shark. Ever since Jaws (1975), this proud creature has been treated in a manner akin to a fishy Nazi, always on hand when a mindless monster is required to do the murderous dirty work.

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Take the gilled tormentor in this lush 85-minute ditty from Catalonian director Jaume Collet-Serra. Despite feeding off a dead whale, this crazed monster wants nothing more than to wash down its blubbery banquet with skinny Blake Lively.

In fact, the svelte form of Lively presents such a tantalisingly delicious prospect to the fish that a full feature film is gleaned from the flimsy "surfer v shark" premise. But look to Collet-Serra's back catalogue - Liam Neeson vehicles Unknown, Non-stop and Run All Night) - as well as luxurious, glistening shots of Lively togging-out and slipping through crystalline waves and you get the sense this could all be an overly elaborate show reel to launch the former Gossip Girl star as an action lead.

She's not quite there yet, but Lively does put her back into portraying Nancy, a US student on a surfing pilgrimage to a mysterious and idyllic Mexican cove. Beside cheesy shots of our heroine riding waves there are more major lapses in judgement, like huge floating phone screens in the shot.

None of this matters because very soon Lovely Lively has become Lonely Lively, stapling closed a bite to her leg with a piece of wire, and trying to figure out a way off a rock 200 yards from shore with the huge psychotic CGI shark circling. She grits her teeth. 'Jaws' grits back. Only a fool would fancy the shark's chances.

It's unintentionally hilarious in parts, and any courting of class and credibility is jettisoned by the time the ludicrous denouement is sold to us. And this is the problem with The Shallows - it's not quite bad enough. Had it embraced its shlocky B-movie undertow more wholly, a cult classic could have been the result.

3 Stars

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