[box cover]

Jaws 2

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 1978's 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? For one thing, the film's utterly redundant. By having yet another Great White visit Amity — to Roy Scheider's nearly identical horror and Murray Hamilton's absolutely identical mayoral skepticism — 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!) 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. 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 — well — 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. Universal's DVD release of Jaws 2 is fairly packed, with a solid anamorphic transfer (2.35.1) and audio in the original 2.0 mono (in English and French). The meatiest extras include a 45-minute making-of documentary; an eight-minute "Portrait by Actor Keith Gordon," who played the least generic of the generic teens; a seven-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. Production stills and notes, storyboards, "Shark Facts," theatrical trailers, "Cast and Filmmakers" notes. Keep-case.
—Alexandra DuPont

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