Review: RiffTrax Live! Sharknado


The Syfy channel is known for making bad movies, and one in particular has become infamous as one of the worst of the worst: Sharknado. It also has the honor of being the latest film to get the RiffTrax Live! treatment.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with RiffTrax, it breaks down like this: Michael J. Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy, all of Mystery Science Theater 3000 fame, have created a new home on web the where they can riff on bad movies. There’s no space ship, no robots, and no pretense of a story or reason given for why they should make fun of these movies. It’s just unadulterated insulting of bad movies. RiffTrax Live! is when they do a live riff of a movie in an actual movie theater, and broadcast it live to other theaters across the country. Most of the time they watch and riff some sort of short film before the main feature. Tonight’s short was A Case of Spring Fever, an educational short from 1940 about the value and virtue of springs. When a man wishes he need never see another spring in his life, a mischievous animated sprite who presents a world without springs ala It’s a Wonderful Life.

Sharknado is a prime target for riffing. It’s one of those movies that is so-bad-it’s-good, but not really. It’s mostly just bad. The title pretty much sums up the premise: there’s tornadoes (not just one) with sharks in them. A very large hurricane moves north along the California coast and causes massive flooding, allowing sharks to get much farther inland than would otherwise be possible. The sharks are seemingly endless in number and consume lots of people. The sharks get in pools, sewers, and pretty much any other inland source of water you can think of. The flooding is so bad, they even get in houses in Beverly Hills. Eventually the storm gets so bad that it begins to spin off tornadoes which lift the sharks into the air and fling them willy-nilly, allowing them to find even more victims.

The story, such as it is, follows a former surf champion Fin, played by Ian Ziering of Beverly Hills 90210 fame. The film follows Fin and his doltish Tasmanian friend (he goes looking for kangaroos in a paddock at one point) as they move inland to escape the sharks, and check in on Fin’s wife (Tara Reid) and daughter. After they pick up the ladies, they decide to go for Fin’s son as well, who is away at flight school. They stop along the way to save a bus full of children before continuing to the flight school. I don’t want to spoil the movie for those who haven’t seen it, but let’s just say the denouement involves a helicopter and homemade bombs versus sharknadoes. The heroes also use baseball bats, axes and chainsaws to ward off the airborne sharks.

This movie is bad, but there are parts that are so absurd they are funny. Sitting through the whole thing could be tough for a lot of people though. That’s where the gentlemen riffers come in. Bill, Mike and Kevin make the movie tolerable by pointing out its fallacies (where is all the sunlight coming from during a hurricane?) in hilariously creative ways. The jokes are rapid fire and are far more entertaining than the movie itself, though we wouldn’t get the jokes without the movie. Sort of a terribly funny Catch-22. Through the film, the guys make fun of Ian Zeiring, imitating other characters mistaking him for other actors from 90210 (even females). They also relentlessly assault Tara Reid (“What would Tara Reid need a bookcase for?”) and her acting career, or lack thereof. One of the best lines of the night had to be when Tara’s character takes up a shotgun in order to take down a shark, and one of the guys yells, “Welcome to Tara-dise, bitches!”

This was easily one of the best live Riffs yet, and I can’t wait for the next one. Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, RiffTrax Live! will next be taking on the 1998 Godzilla film, starring Matthew Broderick, in August and Anaconda in October. Also, if you missed tonight’s live broadcast of Sharknado, it will be replayed in theaters next Tuesday, July 15th. You can get details on all of these shows, and find all of their recorded riffs on!

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