‘Sharknado 4’ Review: This Joke Has No Teeth Anymore

Stars Ian Ziering, Tara Reid and David Hasselhoff seem to be be having fun, but for viewers this return voyage bites

Sharknado: The 4th Awakens

A joke might be funny the first time, but by the fourth time you hear it, the punchline gets tired.

“Tired” is a good description for “Sharknado 4: The 4th Awakens,” which premieres Sunday on Syfy. Although the parody movie is as absurd and silly as the first three installments were, this time around the whole thing feels forced.

On one hand, you can tell stars Ian Ziering, Tara Reid and David Hasselhoff are having fun. Ziering even manages to mock his stint as a Chippendales dancer. But the novelty of this campy killer-shark franchise has clearly worn off, and now the nudges and winks from the made-for-TV flick’s cast and writers border on punishing.

Unlike the other three “Sharknados,” which were set in Los Angeles, New York, Washington D.C., and Orlando, Fla., this one is set in Las Vegas and Kansas. There are “Star Wars” and “The Wizard of Oz” references, an Elvis impersonator and too many types of new tornadoes. No, seriously: there’s a sand-nado, oil-nado, boulder-nado and a lightning-nado, just to name a few.

All of the freak tornadoes appear after five years of peace and quiet. A billionaire named Aston Reynolds (Tommy Davidson) has figured out a way to contain the sharknados through clever high-tech means, but as is the case with most technology, glitches happen.

Once said glitch occurs – no spoilers here – Fin Shepard (Ziering) and his family have to figure out ways to save the day. We even meet a few unknown members of the Shepard clan including Fin’s mom, played by ’70s supermodel Cheryl Tiegs, and his cousin Gemini (Masiela Lusha). Along the way, the Shepards interact with a gaggle of random D-listers, just as they have in the past, including Jillian Barberie, Cynthia Bailey, Dolvett Quince, Adrian Zmed, Vince Neil, Donna Mills, Todd Chrisley, Kenya Moore, David Faustino, Stacey Dash — yes, that Stacey Dash — and Carrot Top.

While it’s fun seeing Carrot Top and Dash bite it, some of the other one-offs are dull and pointless. Campy “Sharknado” cameos used to be a tongue-in-cheek kind of treat. Mark Cuban? Oh yeah. Kelly Osbourne and Robert Hays? Bring it on. But “Sharknado 4” relies too heavily on reality stars from NBC’s stable of various networks and series past and present, including Patti Stanger from “Millionaire Matchmaker.” Hilarious.

That said, “Sharknado 4” boasts its most diverse cast yet with Davidson, Imani Hakim (“Everybody Hates Chris”), Quince and even Dash — yes, that Dash — enjoying rather meaty roles. So while a great deal of the cameos should’ve been slashed, at least there are more faces of color in the mix. As an added bonus, Gary Busey even manages to play a restrained and somewhat dignified scientist. Juicy Busey for the win, ladies and gentlemen. Juicy Busey.

But let’s be clear: this should be the last “Sharknado” movie. Enough, already.

“Sharknado 4: The 4th Awakens” premieres Sunday July 31 at 8 pm ET on Syfy.