Take away the shark cage, and you can title your sequel “47 Meters Down: Uncaged.”
The fact that your heroines in peril are no longer “47 meters down” isn’t a deal breaker. They’re not in the open ocean, stuck in a cage with oxygen running out and a shark or sharks keeping them trapped. But cave diving is actually a much more dangerous activity within the scuba community. Theoretically, that adds a little claustrophobia to the other phobias that the original “47 Meters Down,” one of the great sleepers of recent years, managed.
And heck, let’s stick a blind shark or two in the dark grottoes of this Yucatan Peninsula, just for kicks.
But there’s no getting around the fact that subbing in passable older supporting players (Nia Long and John Corbett in place of Matthew Modine) and parking a bunch of barely legal bikini bottoms and expecting any of them to measure up to Mandy Moore as an actress was the big gamble, here. And it doesn’t pay off.
“Uncaged” is inherently less intense, less nerve-wracking and less fulfilling than the film it follows. It’s clutter where the first film was simplicity, with shoulder-shrugging deaths where the first film made you feel its high stakes desperation.
The film can’t swim out of its own way, most of the time.
Sophie Nélisse and Corinne Foxx are step sisters who have moved with their parents (Long and Corbett) to the Yucatan Peninsula where Dad is leading the scuba exploration of Mayan caves lost to rising sea levels.
Mia (Nélisse) is bullied at the Modine Prep School for Girls (Yup, that’s right.), Sahsha (Foxx) rolls her eyes rather than help. But when they’re supposed to bond over a group glass-bottom boat-ride in shark waters and Sasha has the chance to go do something more fun with her friends, she brings Mia along.
Before you can say “Bring your bikini!” they’re all diving in a coastal grotto that leads into the same cave system Dad is working in. Teenagers being teenagers, mistakes are made and soon they’re trapped in the dark with their oxygen running out, cut off from escape by a cave-blind Great White Shark.
The foreshadowing is too too obvious, the assorted set pieces have no punch and little logic.
The claustrophobia is never emphasized, only one death is wrenching and one other death has something like surprise in it.
But we know where this is going even as it takes its sweet time getting there. Brianne Tju is the standout in the cast, the ONLY actor (including Corbett) who gets across the panic such a situation warrants. Sly Stallone’s kid Sistine Rose Stallone barely registers, something Jamie Foxx’s daughter Corrine manages.
As I said, “bikini bottoms,” something the script (“Sasha, you can barely get your ass through this!” “Shut up, Nicole! As least I HAVE an ass!”) and the sometimes leering direction emphasize.
The sharks don’t exist in real space. They look digitally animated into a process-shot underwater cave.
Mark this one “Uncaged” and going down for the third time.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense peril, bloody images, and brief strong language
Cast: Sophie Nélisse, Brianne Tju, Corinne Foxx, Sistine Rose Stallone John Corbett and Nia Long
Credits: Directed by Johannes Roberts, script by Ernest Riera, Johannes Roberts An Entertainment Studios release.
Running time: 1