Family Movie Review: The Meg (PG-13)

'The Meg' is one of the summer's most fun, most mindless blockbusters, a shark vs. human movie that doesn't stand up to close scrutiny but is enjoyably dumb.

Kernel Rating: 4 out of 5

MPAA Rating: PG-13          Length: 113 minutes

Age Appropriate For: 12+. This shark-attack blockbuster isn't really gory or bloody, but is more of an action-comedy, with some jump scares involving the shark, some shots of its teeth, some fights between sharks and people, and sharks eating other animals and people. Also some drinking and infrequent cursing; a failed rescue attempt in a nuclear submarine where people die in an explosion; and some light flirting and a subplot involving marital infidelity.

By Roxana Hadadi

Shark movies are a summer staple, and "The Meg" is a new addition to the genre that succeeds because of a strong sense of self, an awareness of the cliches its using, and a charismatic leading man. Most of the elements of "The Meg" will be familiar to anyone who has watched a movie where sharks and humans face off, but Jason Statham's presence and the script's willingness to go goofy enliven the movie into a viewing experience that still feels new and refreshing.

TheMeg1 ChesapeakeFamilyMovieReview"The Meg" starts off with zany faux-science, which is a good sign in a movie like this -- there is already no assumption of reality at play! The movie focuses on a group of scientists working at Mana One, an underwater reseach facility 200 miles off the coast of China, who have discovered that what everyone assumed was the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the deepest point in the world's oceans, isn't really solid. Instead, it's a sort of cold cloud that has kept the area underneath it totally preserved and unique; there are creatures there no one has ever seen before, like neon jellyfish, exquisite coral growths, and glowing fish.

But the scientists also find something far more threatening: a Megalodon, a species of shark that was assumed to be extinct. It is fantastically large, monstrously powerful, and is ready to add humans to its diet! With a Mana One research vessel trapped by the Meg, the scientists call on the only man who has ever dived this deep: former rescue diver Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham), who is traumatized by a failed rescue attempt from five years ago. Can Jonas move past his PTSD to come to the rescue? And is there any chance of this group surviving a face-off against the Meg?

There isn't a lot of character development here, but Statham's reputation as a tough guy, built over years of films like "The Fast and Furious" franchise, works well to sell him as the kind of person who could believably fight a gigantic shark that has survived for millions of years. He's kind of silly and sarcastic, and that combination helps the film straddle the line between using jump scares and group banter to simultaneously move the film along in action and comedy directions. And the movie does a good job with a variety of set pieces, from its first shark attack underwater, when no one in the research vessel can see what's bashing into them, to another involving a shark cage, a harpoon gun, and a tricky rope apparatus that keeps lurching around the person inside the cage. It's pretty tense!

The characters are mostly underwritten and the scientific feasibility of "The Meg" is basically impossible. But that doesn't really matter when the movie does so well jumping from one action sequence to the next, when Statham delivers a full-on charm offensive, and when the shark is just present enough to be thrillingly scary with every appearance. "The Meg" knows what kind of movie it is, and it gets that formula exactly right.

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