Today’s movie is the fourth and final entry into the Jaws franchise: the much maligned Jaws: The Revenge.
Jaws 4 was written by Michael de Guzman, who has also penned movies like The King and Queen of Moonlight Bay and Hidden in America.
Jaws 4 was directed and produced by Joseph Sargent, who was previously behind films like the highly acclaimed The Taking of Pelham One Two Three and the Burt Reynolds vehicle White Lightning.
The cinematographer for the film was John McPherson, who shot a number of episodes of Kojak and The Incredible Hulk, as well as the movie Short Circuit 2.
The effects team for Jaws: The Revenge included Tony Lloyd (The Goonies, The Hand), Daniel Striepeke (The Ladykillers, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot), Doug Hubbard (Deep Blue Sea, Face/Off), Henry Millar (Stand by Me, Capricorn One, Commando), Mike Millar (Harry and the Hendersons, Weird Science), and Michael Tice (Hesher, Speed 2, Die Hard, The Avengers).
The score for Jaws 4 was provided by Michael Small, who also composed music for Marathon Man and the original 1975 film adaptation The Stepford Wives.
The cast for Jaws: The Revenge was headlined by Lorraine Gary (1941, Jaws, Jaws 2), Michael Caine (Kingsman: The Secret Service, The Hand, Shock to the System, Blame It On Rio, On Deadly Ground), Lance Guest (Late Phases, Halloween II, The Last Starfighter), Mario Van Peebles (The Hebrew Hammer, Highlander: The Final Dimension, Exterminator 2), Karen Young (Daylight), Mitchell Anderson (SpaceCamp), and Judith Barsi (The Land Before Time).
The plot of Jaws: The Revenge takes place many years after the events of Jaws 2. Sheriff Brody, the hero of the first two films, has since passed away, and is survived by his wife and two sons. However, one of his sons is mysteriously killed on the water, which leads the Brody widow to believe that there is a murderous shark on the hunt for revenge against the Brody family. In hopes of soothing her, the surviving son takes her on a vacation away from Amity, which ultimately proves to backfire when the vengeful shark follows them to the tropics.
Jaws 4 is famously known as one of Michael Caine’s “paycheck pictures,” and there is a popularly circulated anecdote that he claimed to have never actually seen the final product of the film, but has, however, seen the house that it bought him. Caine famously missed the Academy Awards while re-filming the ending sequence of Jaws 4, and couldn’t accept his supporting actor award for the film Hannah and Her Sisters. In his autobiography, Caine wrote that Jaws 4 “will go down in my memory as the time when I won an Oscar, paid for a house and had a great holiday. Not bad for a flop movie.”
Judith Barsi, the child actor featured in Jaws 4, was tragically murdered the following year by her father, making Jaws: The Revenge her last feature film appearance. She is particularly fondly remembered for providing the voice of Ducky in the children’s animated movie The Land Before Time.
The famous tagline used for Jaws 4; “This time, it’s personal,” is now one of the most frequently mocked and cliched movie taglines of all time, and was even lampooned in Back to The Future II‘s portrayal of the fictitious Jaws 19, which is billed with the tagline “This time it’s really, really personal.”
The screenplay for Jaws 4 included back doors for possible cameos by Richard Dreyfuss and Roy Scheider, but both men declined. Scheider even publicly claimed that “Satan himself could not get me to do Jaws part 4.”
As far as other cast trivia goes, Jaws: The Revenge proved to be Lorraine Gary’s final movie, and she even came out of self-imposed acting retirement to appear in it. The character played by Mario Van Peebles, while originally written into the movie, was entirely rewritten by the actor to ‘improve’ the dialogue.
Interestingly, Jaws 4 doesn’t follow the continuity of Jaws 3-D, and disregards that poorly received third entry into the franchise. This is apparently why the official title is Jaws: The Revenge instead of Jaws 4.
Michael Caine’s character had a written subplot about being a drug runner which was actually filmed, but wasn’t included in the final release of the movie. Likewise, the novelization of the movie includes a number of other cut elements of the storyline that never made it to the screen, including a voodoo possession plot that influences the shark’s vendetta against the Brodys.
Unsurprisingly, Jaws: The Revenge was the final official Jaws film release, though countless knockoffs have tried to claim association as Jaws 5. While it was ultimately profitable ($51.8 million on a $23 million budget), it paled in comparison to its predecessors, and was a massive critical flop. It would up with an astounding 7 Golden Raspberry nominations, and won the award for worst visual effects in a motion picture. It is now widely regarded as one of the worst Hollywood movies of all time: it currently holds a 2.8 rating on IMDb, along with a 14% audience score and a 0% critics score on the Rotten Tomatoes review aggregator. The famed film critics Siskel and Ebert both enthusiastically hated the movie, with Gene Siskel claiming he wanted to “punch a hole in the screen” when he first saw it in a theater.
One of the biggest issues with Jaws: The Revenge is the eponymous shark. Not unlike the original “Bruce,” it looks bad and worked poorly. However, the team on Jaws realized this, and used creative editing to make the film impressive in spite of the issues with the monster. Jaws: The Revenge seems to do the opposite: it emphasizes the shark as much as possible, featuring it in full view less than a third of the way through the movie in spite of how bad it looks. The result is a boring shark who spends enough time on screen that all of its flaws are noticeable to the audience, and the tension of the film is sapped away as a result. The fact that the shark was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award, the first non-human to compete for it, says a lot about about how bad it came off in the film.
To my surprise, I didn’t mind Michael Caine or Mario Van Peebles all that much in this, in spite of the massive criticisms both actors received for their roles. Both characters are goofy, but they provide decent foils for the overly serious widow Brody and Michael, respectively. They both come off as more likable than the actual stars of the movie at the end of the day, which is in itself a problem with the writing: the surviving Brodys aren’t particularly likable or relate-able. In fact, the guy who plays the brother who dies early on is actually pretty charming, and does a good enough job that his absence is believably felt throughout the movie. By comparison, his character makes the other Brodys stand out as being even more dull.
As far as characters in Jaws 4 go, it is the child actor who is written the most ridiculously at the end of the day, making Caine’s “Hoagie” look totally sensible. Clearly the aim was for her to come off as just being innocent and ignorant of social graces, but the way she comes off makes it seem like she is determined to poke every weak spot of her mourning grandmother by bringing up her dead uncle in conversation, which seems to happen constantly throughout the film. The result is a child character who is an uncomfortable mixture of shitty and creepy whenever she is on screen.
Overall, Jaws: The Revenge is certainly the weakest entry in the franchise, but it is hardly one of the worst movies I have ever seen. I think it gets a particularly bad reputation because of how bad it is when compared to Jaws. Most of the issues with this movie boil down to either the shark or the writing, which are both things that Jaws also had to deal with in a similar fashion. However, whereas Spielberg and company used creativity to overcome the limitations of the shark and used downtime to modify the screenplay and rehearse the performances, Sargent dropped the ball in his directing duties. The way I see it, Jaws: The Revenge is the worst case scenario of what could have happened to the original Jaws, if a few decisions on Spielberg’s part had gone differently.
As far as a recommendation goes, I think that Jaws 3-D is more entertainingly awful at the end of the day, but Jaws: The Revenge is certainly worth checking out. The shark is terrible, Michael Caine spends the movie doing a Michael Caine impression, and the attempts to reference and homage the original movie are hilariously flubbed across the board. Also, the ending is astoundingly bad, even after the reshoot done to supposedly fix it.