Film Review – The Meg
National Treasure-helmer and, let’s face it, national treasure, Jon Turteltaub‘s newest, The Meg, is a paint-by-numbers, gore-free shark lark that will leave you fishing for a coherent plot. (It gets worse. Both this review and the movie.)
Supposedly a once-begotten hot property, this adaptation of Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror, reeks of Dwayne Johnson‘s hand-me-downs.
Jason Statham stars as Jonas Taylor, our drunk-when-convenient-to-the-plot protagonist who is introduced as a man willing to sacrifice some of his own crew members for the greater white good. He is called out of retirement to rescue an ex-wife et al. from a prehistoric shark thought to have been extinct for some 2 million years. Thought by everyone except Jonas Taylor, which I IMDBd twice now to make sure I got right.
Let’s talk about this shark, sure. Comically large (the exact size is unclear even after several attempted explanations), yes, but the PG-13 restrictions and refusal to commit ultimately leads you to scenes of feigned terror between a boy and his popsicle. Cute, but not essential viewing if you’ve seen Jaws or even its lesser sequels.
I can appreciate a good child performance as much as the next only mostly jaded critic, and Shuya Sophia Cai, as Meiying, does her legwork but can’t escape Turteltaub and writers’ safe inclination for precociousness. A poorly but heavily executed side plot involves Taylor striking up a seaside meet-cute with Meiying’s mother, Suyin (Bingbing Li), and her gently ribbing him about it like a long-time Bridge partner rather than, you know, a child.
Oh yeah, Rainn Wilson is also in this. As an undescript billionaire visiting the underground sea-lab he funds, Wilson seems to relish the part of a Zuckerberg knockoff who can only thinks he’s in a better movie.
I had a general idea of what The Meg was going to be going into it and it did whatever the opposite of paying dividends is. It strips camp classics of the very thing that makes them campy and leaves you with the chum. Then again.. and as a personal aside, I persuaded my 10 year old niece to tag along with me to this screening and she loved it. I’ve been writing for The MacGuffin for going on several years now and can nitpick and snark with the best of y’all, but watching this with a kid just made me remember we’re all just cheering for the puppy to survive and could give a shit about it ends.
Turteltaub’s bag of tricks have long worn thin, and The Meg is especially disposable. Lacking brand or personality, it’s another humdrum knockoff even Piranha would turn its nose at.
I’ll leave you with a note my niece (who liked it, mind you, ask I include): there’s this part where Statham groans about losing a jet in the midst of battle but then utilizes it in the very next shot. Continuity be damned, I guess. Also, the groaner of a last/joke pun is not only inconsistent but one Sharknado already did. If that doesn’t define lazy, I don’t know what does.