Taking a (sound) bite from a repeated refrain during the filming of the 1975 blockbuster Jaws — "The shark is not working!" — this 3+ hour documentary on the film and its subsequent sequels tells you everything you ever wanted to know about sharks but were afraid to ask.
The as-yet unreleased movie has been in the works for years, and is much-anticipated by Bruce's worldwide fan-base ("Bruce" being the nickname given to that uncooperative mechanical Great White). Obviously a labor of love, leagues-deep with info on every aspect from the artwork on the novel's cover to the spate of shark-killings which followed the film's release, this dissertation has it all.
Perhaps most interesting to fans of this "nature attacks!" horror movie and all-around suspense classic will be the never-before-seen interviews with director Stephen Spielberg, stars Richard Dreyfuss and (the late) Roy Schieder (who also narrates the doc), author Peter Benchley in his very last on-camera interview, screenwriter Carl Gottlieb, production designer Joe Alves, and producers Richard Zanuck and David Brown… to name just a few of the principals.
There are also several interviews with peripheral fans (out of nowhere filmmakers like Kevin Smith and M. Night Shyamalan, Jaws memorabilia collectors, marine biology experts, film critics). And rest assured, the horror aspect of the film is well-explored — as is our "primal" (a word that comes out a lot, and is cleverly played up) fear of underwater predators, and the ocean in general. John Williams' super-scary score is also given its proper props.
Director Erik Hollander and writer James Gelet have left no shark unturned, fully exploring not only the original film but its sequels and spawn ad infinitum. Made by fans for fans, The Shark Is Still Working has the blessing of Spielberg and Universal Studios, but for whatever reason there are no plans to put it out on DVD as of yet. So, it'll be making the Festival circuit this summer (just when you thought it was safe to go back into the movie theater).
Witty-written and prettily-presented (stills move in 3-D effect, ala The Kid Stays in the Picture), The Shark Is Still Working is well worth a look for diehard devotees of Jaws (and even those who just love "Shark Week" — the movie goes into many different aspects). But at its current running time, the most casual observer may want to wait for that disc. (Hopefully a pared-down version will finally emerge, as some of the portions [those talking about the "upcoming" Jaws Fest at Martha's Vineyard in 2005, for example] date it.)
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson