'The Last Sharknado: It’s About Time': TV Review
Syfy's popular B-movie franchise ends on a series of timey-wimey set pieces but no comprehensible narrative.
In the beginning was the Word and the Word was Sharknado. The surprise B-movie hit begat an unending stream of summer sequels, and now with The Last Sharknado: It's About Time — the sixth and (supposed) final iteration of the series — there are officially now more Sharknados than Air Buds and just as many Sharknados as there are Transformers. (Which one of those are we up to again? Gritty Herbie?)
To say the Sharknado franchise is brainless is like saying McDonald's is unhealthy. No duh. That's the point. The intentional camp is what made the original 2013 film about a cyclone of sharks ravaging Los Angeles a social media phenomenon and will hook irony junkies for the finale. (Has it really only been five years since this universe blew into our cultural consciousness? We were all so young then.) Viewers flock to schlock, but for something this dumb, shouldn't The Last Sharknado be at least a little more fun?
Instead, it feels like work — a series of sweaty comedy sketches to muster through, not an actual movie. With its signature slurry of C-list cameos, tacky dialogue and winking self-references, this series may be the king of diminishing returns. It's about 85% green screen, 15% your own spongy, spattered brain matter. Here's the conceit of the newest installment: Post-apocalypse, hero Fin Shepard (Ian Ziering) travels back in time with his ragtag team of formerly dead sharknado hunters in pursuit of his son, Gil (Chris Owen) and… to destroy the first sharknado? I dunno. There's robots. The group, which includes fan-favorite bartender Nova (Cassie Scerbo), know-it-all friend Bryan (Judah Friedlander) and Fin's ex-then-not-ex wife April (Tara Reid), moves so swiftly from set piece to set piece the film is more akin to disaster film stream-of-consciousness than anything resembling comprehensible storytelling. We're so far off the plane of reality there is no reality anymore. Just gynoids with laser eyes.
What can you expect? CGI dinos less realistic than the ones featured in Discovery Channel's 2000 docuseries Walking with Dinosaurs. A Game of Thrones/Arthurian cycle mashup led by fervent RuPaul's Drag Race alumna, Alaska. The American Revolutionary War. Cowboys. A far-out 1960s beach party. 1997 San Francisco. Tara Reid 20,000 years in the future dressed up like Max from Where the Wild Things Are. And, of course, a torrent of cameos, from Gilbert Gottfied to Christopher Knight. Is it possible for timey-wimey randomness to be a little too on-the-nose?
Honestly, The Last Sharknado isn't bad enough to be good and isn't good enough to be good. It's kind of just… there, lacking the gore of splatterpunk and the sanitation of kiddie-fare. By honing in on Mad Libs-style conceptual gumbo, the producing team loses any footing to keep the viewer occupied and not, say, half on their phone. I could start to feel my synapses misfire, my myelin sheaths melting and my neurons slowly desiccating into necrotic tissue. Sure, you could say, "Just sit back and enjoy it! Stop being so cerebral!" Except I couldn’t sit back and enjoy what I could not follow from shot to shot, a boiling tsunami of dinky explosions and squawky sound design. I recommend watching this in a group setting only. Preferably with lots of snacks.
Intellectually, you can understand the cult appeal. The Sharknado movies are supposed to be pathologically vacuous: They are written, shot and cast to lean into their low-budget sensibilities and amplify the humor. (You can practically see the masking effect outlines left by the animation software.) Of course, there's charm in its hokey novelty: I'll admit, I nearly screamed when I spotted Tori Spelling, hero of my elementary school years. Ian Ziering is also a pure delight — sincerely, it takes special talent and a zen-like lack of vanity to master the irreverent tone of an eco-disaster comedy. (The star, close to sixty, looks like he has been encased under glass in a Beast's library for the last thirty years — does this man age?) On the other end of the spectrum is blank, half-asleep Reid, a beauty done a huge disservice by the costuming department, who pancaked her face in thick, Kabuki-like foundation.
The sharks (and their 'nados) are nearly incidental to... well, you can't really call it a plot. But hiding under its demented, attention-deficient Doctor Who rip-off persona hides a full-on kitchen sink drama ripe with intergenerational family pathos and dead grandpa trauma. I could also faintly catch a whiff of philosophical ponderings about the butterfly effect and eternal return, but then we were immediately whisked off to the next feeding frenzy. (Is the film ultimately a treatise on technological immortality? Just kidding. It's super dumb.) Maybe The Last Sharknado isn't the most edifying work, but the image of Ziering vivisecting a shark with a chainsaw as its meaty slices go flying remains particularly satisfying to the eye.
Cast: Ian Ziering, Tara Reid, Cassie Scerbo, Judah Friedlander, Vivica A. Fox, Chris Owen
Director: Anthony C. Ferrante
Premieres: Sunday, 8 p.m. ET/PT (Syfy)