Bad CGI Sharks is a bit of a misleading title, but I mean that in the most complementary way.
Yes, the computer-generated chompers are technically bad… cringy, even, in the words of my 13 year-old. But they’re SUPPOSED to be, and in the end, they’re practically the only negative in an indie horror comedy full of heart and craft.
In fact, if you excised the sharks altogether, the film would still work as a goofy, early Kevin Smith-esque meditation on family, dreams, and the absurdity of modern life.
Bad CGI Sharks is the lovechild of LA-based filmmakers Matteo Molinari (Silence of the Hams 1994) and brothers Matthew and Jason Ellsworth (Potluck 2012). The trio share directorial duties under a combination of their names, MaJaMa.
Once upon a time, siblings Matthew and Jason (the brothers play characters named after themselves) grew up wanting to make The Great American Shark Movie, filled with blood, water-thrashing, and heroism.
Life, as it so often does, kicked this dream’s ass, at least for Matthew. He now lives as an office drone in a sad Bermuda Triangle consisting of weird neighbors, L.A. traffic, and bullshit-spouting bosses. Jason, however, never gave up on cinematic glory, and soon arrives freshly kicked out of their parents’ house and clutching the unfinished shark script from long ago – Sharks Outta Water.
Things really get moving with the arrival of Bernardo (Molinari), a wish-granting puppet master/narrator with the power to make people’s creative aspirations come to life. It’s Bernardo’s clumsy use of his “voodoo magic” (Jason’s words) that brings the crappy shark from their unfinished script to life, where it floats like a blimp and terrorizes the neighborhood. It’s up to the brothers to figure out how to unmake it AND its eventual mini-shark spawn. (Aren’t you glad I didn’t say “Baby Shark”?)
What follows is so oddly endearing it could only be the product of siblings. I’m certain that actual family dynamics were at play in some of the more heated argument scenes. Watching Matthew and Jason work together and finally put aside their differences is the real treat here. Even with its micro budget, the film crackles with so much enthusiasm, you scarcely notice. It’s full of catchy music, clever visuals and a sarcastic-yet-sweet attitude.
While Bad CGI Sharks is relatable on a wide range, I felt like the brothers specifically represented the dual nature of most indie filmmakers. Jason is the dreamer half who defies reality and just wants to tell stories, happy to live on peanut butter and Ramen noodles. Matthew is the half who looks at the costs of production and wants to work hard, pay the electric bill, and buy REAL groceries.
It’s Jason’s unswerving faith in the power of story that truly inspires. “See what happens when you believe?” he says excitedly. “It puts YOU in control. It makes the universe your bitch!”
Bad CGI Sharks was recently acquired by distribution company SRS Cinema. A tentative August 2019 release is in the works, including a limited edition Blu-ray.
MaJaMa hit a home run their first time at plate… I can’t wait to see their next move.