RiffTrax — the movie-riffing troupe starring the second generation of Mystery Science Theater 3000 stars, Michael Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy — premiered their latest live screening of the abysmal Sharknado 2: The Second One. Broadcast live on July 9th, the event was transmitted to several participating movie theaters in various cities, and, luckily, the Union Square Regal Cinemas in New York City was just one of the theaters participating, and was characteristically sold out (the live events are exceedingly popular).
After some amusing pre-show trivia slides and song parodies, the event began (rather abruptly. Usually there is a dimming of lights and whatnot; here, the stream began playing mid-entrance, no doubt a technical problem from whatever transmitter was being utilized) with the hosts coming out from on-stage in Nashville, Tennessee. They promoted their next live event (this time for Miami Connection, which will be premiering in October), and then a short film played. The short (titled something along the lines of “Why Do I Need Parents?”) was a bizarre, surreal, hallucinogenic “educational” film from the 1970’s that had no reason for being, nor did it educate anyone on anything (it involved a self-absorbed boy becoming invisible due to the magic of his creepy hand puppet, and watching his parents perform mundane tasks during their oppressively boring lives…for some reason). However, the short was brisk and short enough to keep the hosts’ high energy going, and it was a fun (if bizarre) opening act.
As for the film itself…
This is the second time I’d seen Sharknado 2, and even with the riffs (which came at a relatively slow rate), it remains nigh impossible to enjoy, and just barely possible to watch. While the preceding short benefiting from its brisk pace, brevity, and singular, yet bizarre, focus, Sharknado 2 (and most of The Asylum films) remains a meandering, nonsensical mess. There are so many cameos, it leads you to wonder whose children are being held in a basement, or which sex tapes are being suppressed unless celebrities (which range from Richard Karn, to Mark McGrath, to Judah Friedlander to half the fucking cast of the ABC News team) show up butcher what can only laughably be called the story. What is the story? Glad you asked, because no one making the movie asked that question. They don’t care, so why should you, their audience? But the film isn’t the focus at a RiffTrax Live, the jokes are the focus, and thankfully –- between the gaping continuity, logic, logical, and logistical errors, nonsensical lines (and line readings), irrational character motivations, awful “effects”, and characters who suddenly appear out of nowhere, spout some half clever lines while killing a shark only to never be seen or mentioned again –- the film provides plenty of fodder for ridicule all its own.
Despite the ample opportunity to set a fast pace, two of the three hosts get a bit bogged down. Midwesterners Mike Nelson, and Bill Corbett, seemed wildly overheated onstage; Mike had sweated through his shirt, and Bill constantly dabbed at his face and neck while wearing a (rather ill-advised) suit and tie for his performance. As a result of their visible discomfort their contributions fell short, while Kevin Murphy seemed much comfortable in his Yankees jersey, and carried the bulk of the jokes. What Mike and Bill contributed was often laugh-out-loud funny, but it was not as common to hear either of their voices as it was to hear Kevin’s.
That being said, though, it was a great time at the theater, and all the RiffTrax events are great fun. I’ve seen about fifteen or so of the live events over the past eight years, and they have never disappointed. They cross all genres, and fans of MST3K who need a new fix would do to venture out and catch the next screening, on the 16th of July, if your city permits. In fact, there are many more RiffTrax options than MST3K episodes, as their catalog has now surpassed the entire run of the Mystery Science Theater. They’re a great date, or for a buzzed night out, and every screening (in Newd York, at the least) has been filled to capacity. While the technical issues are always a risk, and Mike and Bill’s near-heat-stroke slowed the pace a bit, there were plenty of gags and laughs (intentional and otherwise) to have made RiffTrax Live worth the time, money, and putting on pants.
4/5 Wil Wheatons being eaten by sharks.