“Malibu Shark Attack” opens with that old favourite, an undersea landslide. This one apparently releases some long-extinct sharks who we’ll get to later. First of all, like the Spinosaurus in “Jurassic Park 3”, the main monster of this movie has to demonstrate its prowess early on by symbolically taking out the previously assumed ‘daddy’ of the genre, in this case, a surprisingly well animated CGI Great White.
The undersea landslide also prompts a tsunami which inundates the Californian coast, hitting Malibu particularly hard and trapping a group of lifeguards in their tower while across the bay, a local property developer and his crew find themselves stranded in the upper floors of their building.
Indecisiveness over the title is fast becoming one of the hallmarks of bad shark movies and this one is no different. In fact, the on-screen title is given as “Mega Shark Of The Malibu”. The definite article is a bit of a headscratcher: why the Malibu? As opposed to what, a Malibu? Like you might be expecting a sudden shark attack from your coconut infused rum if they didn’t make it clear?
Anyway, putting the title confusion to one side, the film does give us another diversity tick as this time the species of shark is the rarely seen (but not, by any measure extinct as its claimed repeatedly in the film) goblin shark. Like “Sharknado”, the film relies on a tsunami to put its predators in the heart of the action rather than skulking offshore to wait for the unwary to come to them.
Waiting for them in the flood waters are a bunch of dumb sub-“Baywatch” wannabes with accompanying soap-opera subplots to while away the minutes between them becoming fish food one by one. Having survived the tidal wave of stock footage, they find themselves besieged by the surprisingly persistent goblin sharks, none of whom offer to spin seaweed into gold or call themselves rumplesharkskin.
For a while, the film actually manages to develop a degree of tension before frittering it away in a finale which embraces cartoonishly easy shark disposal despite their ferocity early in the movie. It’s a tasteless move to invoke the memory of the 2004 Indonesian tsunami during one of the expository news reports, especially in a film this tawdry, cheap and technically inept (talk of 100-foot waves doesn’t really gel with the apparent survival of a wooden lifeguard hut halfway up the beach) and it has very little in the way of wit or creativity in terms of mitigating any of its other shortcomings.
In fact, beyond the unexpected choice of villainous species – not known to inhabit the Californian coast – the film’s most interesting decision of all is to briefly hint at a polyamorous resolution to the tedious love triangle which has underpinned the wafer-thin characterisations throughout the film. Next time, “Malibu Shark Attack”, maybe start with that?