What would summer be without a killer shark movie? Ever since Jaws attacked the box office and the beaches of Amity in 1975, Hollywood has been trying to duplicate its giddy Great White mayhem, chumming the multiplex waters with B-movie wannabes. Two years ago, we got The Shallows. Last summer, we had 47 Meters Down. Now we’re treated to the deliriously goofy sight of bullet-headed Cockney badass Jason Statham going mano a mano with not just any deep-sea predator, but a 75-foot-long megalodon — a prehistoric killing machine long thought to be as extinct as the woolly mammoth.
Through a fluke of science too absurd to explain (the movie only half-heartedly tries), this Jurassic shark has slipped through a crack in the ocean floor off the coast of China to wreak havoc on an underwater research facility and its hubristic billionaire benefactor (a smug-but-not-smug-enough Rainn Wilson). Since this is a Statham vehicle, his can-do salvage specialist character, Jonas Taylor, is given a tragic and perfunctory backstory that offers up a chance of manly redemption. It’s pure nonsense. But if that’s the kind of thing that’s going to trip you up, well, there’s a wonderful Mr. Rogers documentary playing two doors down.
I’ll be honest, The Meg isn’t nearly as good (or as white-knuckle gory) as the movie I had imagined in my head. The CGI is mediocre at best, and a romantic subplot with a single-mom scientist (Li Bingbing) is sentimental hooey. But it is ridiculous, cheesy popcorn fun. And Statham, God bless him, knows exactly what kind of guilty pleasure he’s signed on for — Sharknado with a bigger budget and a much bigger monster.