Jaws 2 (1978) / Horror-Adventure
MPAA Rated: PG for violence and language
Running Time: 117 min.
Cast: Roy Scheider, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton, Joseph Mascolo, Mark Gruner, Keith Gordon, Mark GIlpin, Ann Dusenberry, Donna Wilkes, Billy Van Zandt
Director: Jeannot Szwarc
Screenplay: Carl Gottlieb, Howard Sackler
Jaws 2 is set a few years after the events of Jaws, in the same island community of Amity, where Chief Brody (Scheider, Last Embrace) still patrols with diligence. When a few calamities begin to occur, Brody begins to get that suspicious feeling that another shark may be on the prowl, and once again, the mayor and city council of the town refuse to listen. Brody persists until he loses his job, but finds he still hears a call to action, this time as a father, when his sons and their friends are stuck out in the middle of nowhere with no one else but a crazed shark in sight.
Although it would prove an impossibility to come close to the masterpiece that was the original Jaws, this sequel still manages to dish out the carnage and modest scares that people would probably expect. Steven Spielberg passed on the opportunity to direct, setting the stage for French director Szwarc (Somewhere in Time, Supergirl), a relative unknown at the time, to try to hold the difficult shoot together and deliver an entertaining film for fans of the mega-smash first entry. He's no Spielberg, but he gets the job done in workmanlike fashion nonetheless.
Credibility is lent by another strong performance by Roy Scheider, and when he's on screen, the film actually manages to come close to capturing some of the intrigue that made the original film so riveting. Unfortunately, since he isn't the one in peril, Scheider doesn't always appear, necessitating the crew of unknown teenage actors to take center stage for long stretches, and they aren't nearly as effective. They aren't bad, but they are a far cry from evoking the masterful chemistry that Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss memorably generated.
Despite some impressive shark attacks, the ability to shock the audience is almost all but completely gone. Without as many thrills, Jaws 2 goes through predictable motions, occasionally rising to the surface with a new twist, but remaining quite stagnant for long periods in between. At nearly two hours in length, a bit of trimming of some of the excessively long sailing shots could have been excised, as the middle third of the film sags from a lack of eventful happenings. Things pick up speed again for a lively finale.
Jaws 2 is a giant step down from the landmark first film, but it is better than most of the knock-offs that glutted theaters in the post-Jaws era. It may not exactly get the adrenaline pumping like you'd expect, but it's also not without merit, and Scheider is still quite engaging in his finest character portrayal in his distinguished career, It may lack the excitement and sheer ferocity of Jaws, but this sequel should prove worthwhile fare for those clamoring for a continuation.
-- Followed by two awful sequels, Jaws 3 (aka Jaws 3-D, theatrically) and Jaws: the Revenge.
©2006 Vince Leo