I had always taken it as a matter of pride that I haven’t seen a single episode, or even a single solitary second of “Jersey Shore.” The closest I’ve ever come was their brief, presumably cathartic cameo as the brunt of Moe’s brutal punishment in the Farrelly Bros.’ Three Stooges earlier this year. I guess I assumed that the whole world wanted to see the stars of MTV’s reality TV series bludgeoned with hammers, and that Jersey Shore Shark Attack, a SyFy Channel Original Movie recently released on Blu-ray, would be more of the same. Universally-loathed pop culture punch lines dropped into a situation that punishes them for their many perceived flaws, a cheap gag or two at reality TV’s expense, everyone at home feels good about themselves afterwards, engaging in a blissful if mean-spirited bout of schadenfreude.
So it was with some surprise that I actually watched Jersey Shore Shark Attack, a film which has a remarkably surprising respect for the “guido” archetypes which, I presume, are personified on “Jersey Shore.” The women dress audaciously and the men have abs I didn’t think existed outside the sculpted front of a rubber Batman costume, and while yes, some of those abs get bitten off by albino sharks, that’s where much of the “satire” ends. The cast of “Jersey Shore,” or its nearest fictional SyFy equivalent, are portrayed as heroic protectors of a cultural lifestyle that, in Jersey Shore Shark Attack at least, could only be critiqued by the kind of snooty country club types usually reserved for a Caddyshack knockoff. That, or the only way to make these characters seem heroic is to juxtapose them with a villain archetype almost as ubiquitously reviled as the Nazis.
All is not well at the Jersey Shore, where a young man resembling Richard Grieco on ‘roids, known casually as “The Complication” (played by Jeremy Luc) is in hot water with his girlfriend “Nooki” (played by Melissa Molinaro, and yes, I see what they did there) after a drunken one-nighter with a hapless floozy. Making matters worse, an on-shore drilling operation – not a typo, it’s right on the beach – has been sending shockwaves throughout the ocean floor that attract rare albino sharks that have an annoying tendency to behead Joey Fatone, playing himself, on stage during a live performance. Naturally, it’s up to The Complication, Nooki and several other archetypical variations on the “Jersey Shore’s” cast (at least, I presume they’re analogues), to grab a bag of illegal fireworks, raid the police department’s arsenal and take the fight to the aquatic menace.
Let’s make one thing clear, the cast of “Jersey Shore” does not get anything resembling comeuppance in Jersey Shore Shark Attack for their relentless assault on the mass media and gossip rags. The core cast, near as I can tell, escapes the inexpensive Jaws riff unscathed, so if you’re looking for some level of escapist sadism at the expense of MTV’s trashy iconoclasts, look elsewhere. These stalwart protectors of wet t-shirt contests and the weight-lifting way of life may lack brains, but they compensate in dignified rejection of WASP-y materialism, except where gold chains are involved, of course. I guess nobody’s less materialistic than the cast of “Jersey Shore.” That must explain why they have to contend with honky sharks instead of the typical blue-collar breed. Oh, what an elaborate metaphor.
Apart from this unexpected subversion of cultural judgment, Jersey Shore Shark Attack operates on conflicting levels. The dialogue is awkward, but the characters are strongly realized, arch though they are. The suspense is nonexistent, but the gore is plentiful. The CG effects are awful, but at least you get to hear Paul Sorvino say racist things about Italians, confirming at least that Jersey Shore Shark Attack actually knows what “irony” is. There hasn’t been a bag this mixed since a tornado struck the Mango factory, and that hasn’t even happened.
Jersey Shore Shark Attack chomps its way onto Blu-ray with a crisp but thoroughly digital transfer, a brief “Making Of” and a commentary track from the producers and director, because obviously you’d like to know more about the production. I kind of would. The target audience clearly wants to see “Jersey Shore” lampooned, but the makers of the film had a clear mission statement to celebrate the series instead. It’s a clear case of utter confusion, represented by a truly baffling little shark movie that sparks my curiosity, but not my interest. Maybe The Hills Meets Dracula would have been more my speed.