The Rifftrax gang is back with the second of four films set to receive the live riff treatment in 2014. Dubbed "The Crappening," Rifftrax Live recently did the first of two shows around the Syfy "masterpiece," Sharknado 2, a continuation of the magical story of a tornado with sharks taking over New York City. As a standalone movie, Sharknado 2 lacks the campy humor of the first film, acknowleding its self-awareness and loading the film with cameos, and the Riff guys aren't as sharp as they were with the R-rated The Room, but it's hard not to love being seduced by the Rifftrax team.
Taking up where the first Sharknado left off, Fin and April (Ian Ziering and Tara Reid) are headed to New York to visit Fin's sister (Kari Wuhrer). However, the damn sharks can't seem to avoid certain weather systems and a series of powerful "sharknadoes" threaten the Big Apple.
All Rifftrax Live shows need to be judged in two categories: the movie and the riffing. As a movie, Sharknado 2 only works with someone - either our professional trio or you and your friends at home - laughing and mocking the inanity of it all. In this film, the movie completely throws the script out the window, giving us the basic tenets of a plot and utilizing it as a means of showing bad CGI sharks rip people into CGI-chunks. The CGI hasn't gotten any better since the first go-round, although it does seem the actors are more capable of interacting with things that obviously aren't there...not that they act well, just better at faux interaction.
With the success and cult status of the first one, the second one certainly believes in the term "bigger and better," but it seems they forgot the latter half. Moving from Los Angeles to New York raises the stakes, but it also gives us more matte backgrounds, and outside of a few shots in Times Square, it's as if this was all filmed on a backlot...hmm. Also, this is just way too cameo heavy. The first film had its share of cameos, but every C and D list celebrity makes an appearance, as well as actual people with integrity. I'm not sure what Syfy has on the Today Show and Live with Kelly and Michael to give them running plotlines in the movie, but it's hard not to feel bad for Matt Lauer and Al Roker saying their lines. Roker, in particular, has to do several hokey weather reports around these "sharknadoes" that, unlike the cameos in something like Shaun of the Dead, makes you wonder whether the crew are secretly screaming for help in-between takes.
But the overabundance of cameos ends up bogging down the film. Every time we're meant to follow the core characters, Fin and his family, we cut to extended scenes with someone more famous than them (guess that shows the pecking order). In actuality, there's no character development other than telling us Fin has a sister and a best friend/brother-in-law. I can't believe I expected character development from something like this! I did wonder if the naming of Wuhrer's character, Ellen Brody, was an intentional Jaws reference...it probably was.
The Rifftrax guys, Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett, return in fine form after the hysterical presentation of The Room back in May. Their jokes are fun, although they aren't as biting as they were in The Room and there's no cursing here, unlike in that presentation. They do tend to play it safe here, more often than not. (There is an amazing non-joke regarding the black mark appearance of Subway spokesperson, Jared Fogle, that leaves the group acknowledging "there was a joke here.") There were also some obvious plot holes I'd wished the group brought up, especially regarding Fin and past girlfriend Skye's (Vivica A. Fox) interracial romance. The two act like they were pushed apart due to segregation, but they're way too young!
What's funnier than the actual film is the short the trio brought, preceding the feature. The short this go-round explores why parents are necessary and involves a demonic (I'm assuming) hand-puppet and the utter lack of proving the film's question - what are parents good for? The riffs on this are side-splitting and proof that the group needs to do another film just involving shorts.
Rifftrax Live: Sharnado 2 won't go down as their funniest work, but the short is amazing and worth the price of admissions alone. The jokes aren't as consistent, particularly because the film is just too self-involved and openly acknowledging how bad it is, usually the kiss of death for these types of presentations. If you're a die-hard Rifftrax fan, it won't matter the quality of the film, so go see it.
An encore presentation of Rifftrax Live: Sharknado 2 takes place this Thursday, July 16th at 7:30pm