Tommy Wiseau Continues To Be More Spectacle Than Substance with Big Shark
Oh Hi Shark
I attended the premiere of Big Shark at the Cinema 21 theater in Portland Oregon. Tommy Wiseau has been hard at work trying to recreate the accidental magic of The Room. His last project, Best F(r)iends, came with mostly negative reviews but with Big Shark, we see a lot of that spark that originally started his cult following. It’s a collection of audio mistakes, confusing scenes and poor CGI but man was it fun.
Big Shark starts with a fire, and three heroic firefighters saving a family trapped inside. The three firefighters are our main protagonists of the story; Patrick, Tim and Georgie. Patrick is played by Wiseau himself, as he likes to do. Post fire, our heroes are given awards and party the night away with their team. The story then aimlessly shifts towards a mysterious shark that will appear, almost at random, to attack. The only warning is sudden flooding that appears dramatically. It’s then up to our central characters to figure out how to stop the titular Big Shark.
What really stood out to me regarding the story is how drunk our characters seem to be at all times. Not the actors, but within the plot of the story, with no direct reason as to why. There are also repeated scenes, but filmed in different locations. It’s such a strange choice seeing almost the exact same scene in different parts of the story. Other confusing choices are how it’s shot. There are so many dramatic scene cuts and camera angles that shift drastically, but don’t mix the audio per cut. So a single camera angle will have completely different audio quality and volume vs another. The same goes with sound effects. Applause will only appear from specific camera angles and disappear at the drop of a hat. The movie really is a fever dream of puzzling director choices leaving the viewer in a haze but you don’t come to a Wiseau film for the quality.
Adding to the chaos is the hilariously bad CGI of the big shark. It seems to appear randomly and without warning. The ridiculous level that it appears, completely unbeknownst to our heroes as well, with them barely reacting if at all. There is one particular scene where they pick up a trapped civilian and drop them off at their apartment, with only the civilian reacting at all. The heroes are unphased and even refuse to acknowledge its existence. These are all choices by our auteur director that act to confuse as well as delight. That’s the real magic trick with Wiseau.
Watching Big Shark is similar to The Room, as it just kind of happens TO you, rather than you interacting with it. These films are there to discuss why and how you perceived the cacophony of images and sounds presented. There’s more fun in the discussion happening throughout than actually watching. Similarly to Rocky Horror Picture Show, there is an extra layer to the live viewing experience. At the premiere, the audience was in full effect, ready to react to whatever we were presented with. There were sing-alongs, catch phrases, and pre-set interactions held over from The Room. The energy was high and really pushed the evening to new levels of enjoyment knowing we were all viewing the same theatrical atrocities together.
The surprise star of Big Shark is New Orleans itself. There are multiple references to the city and its real life locales, as well as the street musician culture. It’s almost like Tommy Wiseau visited once and fell in love with the big band atmosphere. This leads to several scenes of just the actors dancing to the street musicians, seemingly to no purpose except to do it. There are also several nods to New Orleans fashion culture, as stated by Tommy himself in an after show Q and A. These scenes mostly detract from the plot as a whole, it’s still nice to see a directors’ appreciation for the locale they are shooting in.
Big Shark is not a film worth watching for its merit, but there’s something to be said about a full audio visual experience that comes with seeing this event live. This will join the ranks of The Room or Rocky Horror Picture Show for how ridiculous the audience will get over time. Despite being hard to actually recommend based on quality, this is still a car crash that you can’t turn away from.