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ALEXANDRA DuPONT Bites Into JAWS 2!!

I am – Hercules!

Sunday nights are getting to be my favorite time of the week, thanks to these regular DVD dispatches from wily former contessa Alexandra DuPont.

Tonight is Steven Spielberg night for Alex, as she examines both “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and the first sequel to the master’s “Jaws” (with which, of course, Spielberg had nothing to do).

Thanks as always to The DVD Journal for the loan of these reviews. We start with the sequel!

Jaws 2: Special Edition

Jaws 2 director Jeannot Szwarc (who went on to helm Somewhere in Time, Supergirl, Santa Claus the Movie and episodes of "Ally McBeal") tells a funny story on one of the J2 DVD supplements. It seems the producers had a little trouble with the film's French title: Jaws was released in France as Le Dents de la Mer ("The Teeth of the Sea"), but titling Jaws 2 as Le Dents de la Mer Deux sounded suspiciously like "The Teeth of the Shit."

Which begs the question: Has a DVD extra ever handed a reviewer a better lead-in? For Jaws 2 is indeed a formless pile of poo -- at least compared to Jaws, arguably the leanest, meanest Hollywood thriller of all time. Shall we enumerate J2's flaws?

(1) For one thing, the film's utterly redundant: By having yet another Great White visit Amity Jaws 2 makes the franchise feel like a weekly TV series, with all the character stagnation that implies. (Will Brody once again be hanging over the water holding something that allows him to kill a charging shark? Tune in next week!)

(2) Also, the first film's virtue was its taut, subplot-free narrative thread; but Jaws 2 is all over the place -- splitting its focus between Scheider's Sheriff Brody and a huge pack of redundant teenagers, with Scheider reduced to the role of white knight by film's end.

(3) And as the DVD extras reveal, Szwarc shot several of the movie's shark attacks while the script was being rewritten, with the "human drama" to be slotted in around the mayhem; unfortunately, this lead-with-the-shark methodology (the exact opposite of Spielberg's approach) makes Jaws 2 an episodic, unfocused piece of of merde.

Still, certain bits and pieces are lovely by themselves: the scarred shark slicing a fleet of catamarans to ribbons; Scheider manning a watchtower, with a crowded seascape below; POV shots of the shark closing in on a water-skier; tender moments between Scheider and Lorraine Gary, who returns as Brody's wife; and John Williams' score, which expands the Jaws theme into a romantic motif. (The J2 soundtrack CD is quite the rarity, I'm told.)

As for the DVD: It's fairly packed. The anamorphically enhanced picture's lovely, though the sound is presented in the original 2.0 mono (in English and French). The meatiest extras include a 45-minute making-of documentary; an 8-minute "Portrait by Actor Keith Gordon," who played the least generic of the generic teens; a 7-minute segment in which John Williams talks about the challenges of scoring a sequel; the aforementioned "French Joke"; and four deleted scenes -- including a surprisingly tense bit in which the shark attacks a submerged helicopter.

Also on the disc: production stills and notes, storyboards, 'Shark Facts," theatrical trailers and "Cast and Filmmakers" notes. Keep-case. Thank you for your time.

— Alexandra DuPont
dupont@dvdjournal.com

Readers Talkback
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  • May 20, 2001, 10:57 p.m. CST

    Oh, it wasn't THAT bad...

    by carterburke

    It has the unfortunate distinction of following a true masterpeice (I don't think Speilberg himself ever topped Jaws). The critiques are accurate, but the overall picture does work fairly well as an unambitious retread with production problems. It's also interesting to look at it as an early dead-teenager flick with the shark as Micheal Myers/Jason. I mean if Jaws 2 is shit, what's Jaws the Revenge? Super-ultra shit? And I'd love to hear some backround about what went on with the original director, Philip Kaufman. How much input did he have? Why did he leave the production?

  • May 21, 2001, 4:04 a.m. CST

    Something smells fishy.... and it aint the shark....

    by Ridge

    Well, I think this review reeks of personal opinion... I dont think Jaws 2 was *THAT* bad? I thought that part 1 AND 2 stand together quite well as a perfect movie, and a good idea of how to do a sequel? I think part 3 and 4 both show the complete opposite however. Part 2 of course was bound, as said by another talkbacker, to be seen as inferior, what, with following in the footsteps of the 'Great White Shark' of modern cinema... a movie that came out of nowhere and tore our expectations to shreds, leaving us shocked and scared and now stands as one of the best horror movies, nay, best MOVIES of all time! I do agree Spielberg hasn't quite reached the level with his movies that he did with Jaws, for, Jaws shows not only a labor of love, but a labor of hate, a labor of trying times... it's well known that his heart and soul went into the first movie, and the second one didn't *quite* have that... but what it did have was 'Popcorn flick' written all over it... Roy Scheider as always was excellent, and though there were the generic teens to be killed, it did come across as a fun movie none the less. Thats my opinion anyhow, and guaranteed someones gonna disagree....

  • May 21, 2001, 8:49 a.m. CST

    The soundtrack

    by Dr Rosenrosen

    Is the soundtrack really a rarity? I got it at a Virgin Megastore. It's really good...better than the movie, though I do feel that the movie is not bad and is unfairly merded-upon.

  • May 21, 2001, 11:07 a.m. CST

    Jaws 2 is miles better than Jaws!

    by Tigertron

    Face it - you

  • May 21, 2001, 12:26 p.m. CST

    Dare I say, part deux...

    by Halloween68

    I'd have to say: I disagree with how this reviewer perceives this movie. I liked Jaws 2. I don't compare it to Jaws. Jaws was a masterpiece. Jaws 2 picks up where Jaws leaves off, sure. You've got the same actors reprising roles, you've got the same composer extending his brilliant score. But that's about as far as it goes. Jaws 2 is a horror movie. Sure, Jaws has some truely tense and creepy scenes, but Jaws is not a horror movie. Yeah, Jaws 2 is chaotic, jumping around quite a lot, mostly driven by the shark attacks. But, hey, what we've got here is a psychopath treading water. Come on there's a body count in this one. It's all fear of the eventual attack and then shock when the attack takes place. Good stuff. The action's fast pace. It should jump around a lot. That's called pacing. Now don't get me wrong. There are some pretty asinine sequences in the movie, such as the helo scene and the bit at the end with the sharks last "electrifying" scene. But, hey, I guess you can't win them all. Especially when we are talking sequals. And as sequels go, I think this one of the better ones in film history. I think our unknown director did relatively well in following up Spielberg at his finest. I think this film did what it was built to do, what the public liked most about the first one, scare and shock. And don't tell me any of you didn't shift in your seat when the one kid got slammed into the side of the boat and then widdled down in front of his girlfriend. Quit effective as a summer horror film that, yes, maybe is a little dated. As far as I am concerned though, this was the only Jaws sequel. Everyone went their only merry way after this. DENIAL!

  • May 21, 2001, 4:02 p.m. CST

    the reason noon

    by benny69

  • May 21, 2001, 4:02 p.m. CST

    the reason noon

    by benny69

  • May 21, 2001, 4:03 p.m. CST

    the reason noone's saying anything is...

    by benny69

    that reviews have been up for over two weeks now, giving people enough time to sort out if they want to buy it or not. i've personally had my hands on the disc for a week and a half and the only part of it i didn't like was the mono track. everything else that could have been changed was good. the movie, though, needed work. and the helicopter attack underwater is awesome!

  • May 21, 2001, 5:52 p.m. CST

    Nothing shy of a nude beach scene could save Jaws 2 from inferio

    by SilentBob X

    Or, I could refer to it as the beginning of the end of respectability for what is the greatest thriller of its day. Jaws, Smokey and the Bandit, and Ghostbusters all suffered the same fate. How sad. Snoogans.

  • May 22, 2001, 5:49 a.m. CST

    Something a lot of people don't relize

    by TheGinger Twit

    Jaws 2 is actually a very classy film. In a lot of respects it's better than Jaws 1 - not that I don't think that movie kicks arse. But it's the crap of Jaws 3-D and Jaws: The Revenge that somhow Jaws 2 got lost in the common knowledge that the sequals were all terrible. As far as second movies go, Jaws 2 is up there with Empire, Trek 2, and Mummy returns. Yes that's right! Mummy Returns! I liked it.