"The Meg" has an impressive CGI shark with an appetite for destruction, a delightfully grumpy Jason Statham and much panicking. What more do you need in a summer movie? Rating: 3 stars out of 4.
Oh, we’re going to need a bigger boat, all right. Like “Rampage” earlier this year, “The Meg” conjures up thrills by taking a creature that’s reasonably scary to begin with and making it really big. Really, really big. As in a megalodon, a theoretically extinct shark that’s about 75 feet long, has teeth nearly as big as your head and is extremely cranky, as theoretically extinct creatures tend to be.
He, or she (how do you discern a gigantic shark’s gender? All together now: very carefully), emerges from the ocean floor to terrorize a group of researchers at the Mana One marine research institute 200 miles off the coast of Shanghai. Jack Morris (Rainn Wilson), a billionaire investor in red shoelaces, has arrived for a sightseeing visit just when the Meg first makes itself known to an unlucky Mana One trio exploring the depths in a submersible vessel. Much panicking and casual-tossing-about-of-mysterious-scientific-phrases ensues, and finally someone shouts, as one does, “We must go to Thailand!”
In Thailand resides the former great underwater rescue diver Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham), who spends his days drinking beer and definitely doesn’t dive anymore, oh no sirree he doesn’t, not for any amount of money, no way — until he is told that his ex-wife is among that submersible crew. (Someone needs to make a heist movie in which an old hand is lured back for One Last Job because his ex-wife is trapped in a safe. This is about as good an idea as anything presented by the crew of Mana One, whose plans for dealing with a deadly giant shark all seem to involve swimming directly toward it.)
Statham, as always, makes a delightfully grumpy, chiseled hero: staring into the distance with his trademark Jason Statham Concerned Expression (the one that means he is about to Take Action, and oh yes, it requires initial caps, because there is serious action involved); wryly intoning “I am proceeding toward the enormous killer shark” into his headpiece while clearly questioning his life choices. It’s fun watching him and chief biologist Suyin (Li Bingbing) find time to flirt while battling for their lives, and to watch the cast delivering constantly entertaining variants on screaming while immersed. And that mostly (and impressively) CGI shark, with its surly expression and appetite for destruction, is … well, it’s big, which is what it needs to be. It’s all good, goofy fun; make it an air-conditioned double feature with “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” and you might just have the very definition of “summer movies.” Look out!
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★★★ “The Meg,” with Jason Statham, Li Bingbing, Rainn Wilson, Ruby Rose, Winston Chao, Page Kennedy, Jessica McNamee, Sophia Cai. Directed by Jon Turteltaub, from a screenplay by Dean Georgaris, Jon Hoeber and Erich Hoeber, based on the novel “MEG” by Steve Alten. 112 minutes. Rated PG-13 for action/peril, bloody images and some language. Multiple theaters.