Whatever was cute about the first “Sharknado” — how a factory-made Syfy exploitation movie improbably took off, organically, as a Twitter and social-media meme — has been blown away amid a tide of corporate synergy, as well as pointless sort-of celebrity cameos. The “So stupid it’s funny” mentality is tested and then some by “Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!” which, like “The Second One,” appears to have exhausted most of its ingenuity in dreaming up the subtitle. Given that No. 4 is already in the works, resistance is futile, but at this point, watching is less a silly lark than a teeth-gnashing ordeal.
In terms of being team players, the movie’s creative stewards (once again, director Anthony C. Ferrante and writer Thunder Levin) earn gold stars for corporate apple-polishing. Not only do they again prominently feature members of NBC’s “Today” show, whose embrace of this concept reeks of desperation, but they set a good deal of the action at the Universal Studios theme park in Orlando, which looks like a swell place to visit as long as it isn’t raining sharks.
Still, as they say in latenight infomercials, there’s more. Among the conspicuous product placements — right behind Subway — is a billboard for NBCUniversal’s XFinity Internet service, into which one of the sharks conveniently crashes.
The other product placements are of the two-legged variety: celebrities of one stripe or another, often in blink-and-you’ll-miss-them fashion, mostly to give more people with significant footprints reason to tweet about the movie. Playing to various constituencies, they range from former congressmen Anthony Weiner and Michele Bachmann to Jerry Springer and wrestler Chris Jericho, with Mark Cuban and Ann Coulter, respectively, as the president and vice president of the United States. (Trying to make it all vaguely interactive, Syfy is offering downloadable “Sharknado 3” cameo bingo cards.)
Fin (Ian Ziering) gets to rub elbows with these last two during a visit to the White House that opens the movie, where he’s to be honored for his role in fighting off sharknados past. Alas, those ominous storm clouds mean his chainsaw-wielding work isn’t done, and before it’s over, he’s re-joined by Nova (Cassie Scerbo), who was featured in the first film; and reunited with his dad (David Hasselhoff), a former astronaut who adds an “Armageddon”-type riff to the festivities.
Naturally, there’s also Fin’s wife April (Tara Reid), who lost her hand in the previous film, and spends much of this one in the company of her mom (Bo Derek) and teenage daughter (Ryan Newman), reflecting a conscious hedging of demographic bets, as well as political and pop-cultural ones.
Syfy has noted that the movie will air in more than 80 countries within 24 hours of its U.S. premiere, making this a kind of global event. The problem is that all the self-referential gags have begun yielding diminishing returns, as the filmmakers seem less interested in surpassing themselves (since being cheesy is part of the conceit) than simply in replicating what’s gone before to service pithy slogans like “The Feast Coast.”
“Why does this keep happening?” Nova asks in the early going. But, frankly, it’s hardly a mystery. The real question after watching “Sharknado 3” is whether the parent company’s unrestrained appetite to cash in will hasten the end of this corporate feeding frenzy, because it sure smells like this fish stinks from the head down.