Even the best joke isn’t as funny the third time you tell it. Unsurprisingly, this is the case with “Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!” the third installment in the so-bad-it’s-good summer TV movie series on SyFy. Following the firmly established formula, director Anthony C. Ferrante delivers predictably amped-up action and less camp on this third swipe at the chum bucket. But that doesn’t stop it from being a fun, if less hilarious, ride.
“Oh Hell No!” has everything that was great about the first two films: chainsaws, sharks that eat D-listers, action scenes divorced from the laws of physics and product placement galore. But in an effort top excesses of the previous two films, “Oh Hell No!” gets weighed down by its plot machinations and … decent acting.
Sharknado-fighter Finn (Ian Ziering) is on his way to accept an award from the President of the United States when he finds himself at the center of a Sharknado sucking thousands of sharks out of the Potomac — sharks that presumably were swimming around D.C. this whole time. Soon Sharknados are descending on the entire Eastern seaboard and — wait, is that disgraced politico Anthony Weiner doing a cameo? — it’s up to Finn to take care of this thing once and for all.
But in an effort to deliver the biggest payoff yet, some momentum is lost. Always a big noisemaker in social media (and somewhat less of one in the ratings), “Sharknado” has begun to aspire to resemble blockbuster movies when it should revel in the B-movie cheesiness that made the first two films so lovable.
How? Here’s one thing that’s rarely complained about in a review: The acting and dialogue in “Oh Hell No!” are not bad enough. Partially, this can be credited to less screen time for Tara Reid, whose talent for infinitely gif-able reaction shots created so many laugh-out-loud moments in the first two films. The hammy sentimentality that made solemn scenes in the first two installments such campy fun has evaporated in favor of a serial crime-show brand of seriousness. And the moment “Sharknado” stops making fun of itself is the moment it stops being fun to watch.
This series is about wish fulfillment. Of course we want to see a shark get choked with a bust of George Washington. Of course we want to see Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb fight sharks using broken wine bottles as shivs. And yes, we do want to see former child actors get torn limb from limb. What we don’t want is to have to take any of it seriously.
But the key is to hang on till the end. In saving the most ludicrous moments for the final few minutes, “Sharknado: Oh Hell No!” proves that it hasn’t lost all of its corny, cold-blooded heart yet.
“Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!” Premieres at 9 p.m. Eastern and Pacific on Syfy