Stay Classy: Jaws

Maybe you’ve never heard of it. Maybe you’ve always wanted to see it. Or maybe you’re just tired of the new. Whatever your reason, the classics are always worth a nod. Every Friday in Stay Classy, we look some of the films that started it all and how they hold up today. So sit back while we reel through the past.

Photo: EW.com
(Bet they wish they had a bigger boat bout' now...)

Thirty-five years ago this week, a shark named Bruce (yes, that's where Nemo's fish-friendly bud got his title) took a mega-bite out the box-office. And the deep sea legend has hardly aged a day since. Well, for the most part.

Jaws was the first summer blockbuster (or rather, wide release) ever. Since summer '10 technically just started, I thought I'd get back in the water - and revisit the water-bound classic. Steven Spielberg's 1975 hit is simple at heart. A small-town gets ripped to shreds (literally - remember that opening scene. Ick.) by a finny creature from the deep on July 4th weekend and New England's equivalent of the Village People - a fisherman, a police chief and marine biologist - make it their mission to stop it. Basically, it's a beach-side reiteration of the classic hero-villain conflict. Just this time, the fight isn't man-to-man, it's man-to-mega-sea-beast (I think I just came up with the new straight-to-DVD Space channel movie), which is way more awesome and scary. 'Cause as we learn again and again during Shark Week, the toothy dudes are a bitch and a half when they're hungry.

Despite what the title suggests, Jaws has got a whole lot more going for it than a maniacal big white. In between the legendary attack scenes (duh-na, duh-na), there's some great character interaction and acting. Roy Schneider is awesome as Amity's main law man, Chief Brody. His scenes with his terrified young son are legendary and really realistic (what kid wouldn't be freaked out after his buddy got swallowed in the sea?). And who can forget the killer camaraderie he has with partners in shark-catching, Quint (Robert Shaw) and Hooper (Richard Dryfuss)? The scene where they get wasted and sing together is straight out of a modern bromance (and I mean that in the best way). As Ebert once said, when originally reviewing the film, Jaws "works all the better because it's populated with characters that have been developed into human beings."

Although the acting and storytelling is worthy of a Top 10 alone, the real magic of Jaws is that it leaves so much to the imagination in terms of action. We don't see the infamous great white until the end. Before that, we merely see the lead-up - and the aftermath - to his swimmer snackage, either from above, as a tourist get snatched into the depths or from below, where legs dangle aimlessly until they disappear. By keeping the movie's big-bad mysterious, Spielberg builds the suspense, and creates a villain to beat all villains: silent, deadly and inhuman.

Unfortunately, I fear that the Saw-generation audiences might find this slow-building and not overly gory technique a bit anticlimactic. But that doesn't mean they shouldn't give it a chance to terrify them the old-fashioned way. And when you think about it, Jigsaw, Jason and the rest of the butcher brigade would fall to pieces if they met up with Jaws. Even the most badass human villains wouldn't hack it in the big sea circle of life.

I'm sure if Jaws came out today it would be way different. It would feature some ugly-ass Pandora CGI (Bruce was purely mechanical back in the day), a mediocre alternative soundtrack and a bunch of needlessly overdone kills (What up, Deep Blue Sea!). And it would suck, big time - and end up on Peachtree TV a lot. Thankfully, it has been well-preserved in it's low-frills, high-fun format, forever ready for a nice summer night in. Cause in the big sea of summer blockbusters, I doubt they'll ever be a bigger boat than this one.

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