Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 15, 2021)
Will audiences ever tire of tales about shark attacks? Apparently not, as 46 years after Jaws established that genre, additional entries continue to materialize.
Our latest example: 2021’s Great White. Here we meet Charlie (Aaron Jakubenko), a former marine biologist who now runs a seaplane operation.
Along with his girlfriend Kaz (Katrina Bowden), Charlie struggles to keep the business afloat. Potential financial salvation arrives when Joji (Tim Kano) and Michelle (Kimie Tsukakoshi) charter their services.
On a voyage that also includes cook Benny (Te Kohe Tuhaka), this doesn’t go well, and the plane winds up stranded on a remote reef. When they attempt to escape via a flimsy life raft, another challenge arrives: a Great White shark with a taste for really attractive young people.
Any time I review shark movies, I really try to avoid comparisons to Jaws. These offer the definition of an unfair fight, as virtually none of that flick’s genre siblings can hope to compete with it.
However, some movies push too many similarities for me to ignore the shark in the room. While White doesn’t copy Jaws, it clearly borrows more than a few elements from that classic.
The score occasionally echoes John Williams’ famous theme, and a few shots/scenes feel just a little too heavily influenced by the 1975 film. Though these don’t dominate, they distract.
If I ignore the Jaws associations, I find a perfectly mediocre film via Great White. In an unusual twist, the film enjoys a better Rotten Tomatoes rating from critics than from viewers, a reverse of the usual pattern for “popcorn” flicks such as this.
Whereas White got a 42 percent from critics, site visitors handed it a miserable 19 percent. In this case, I’ll side with the critics, as White doesn’t deserve a rating as low as 19 percent.
Heck, if I felt generous, I’d look at White more as a 50 to 55 percent flick, mainly because it never does anything particularly wrong. For a film to get a bad RT score, I think it needs to stand out as memorably problematic, and I can’t claim that about White.
However, it becomes difficult to locate much that it does especially right as well, mainly because White brings us a pretty “paint by numbers” shark thriller. Even without the Jaws allusions, you can’t find anything here that seems creative or fresh.
Maybe one shouldn’t expect the umpteenth shark movie since 1975 to plumb fresh ground. However, White could’ve located a path to become more of its own beast than it does, so we wind up with a wholly predictable and ordinary story.
This means predictable and ordinary characters as well. As noted, all the movie’s roles offer attractive actors but none of them develop into anything memorable, and in between action scenes, we find ourselves stuck with too much melodrama.
The action scenes work acceptably well, though the movie’s low budget hamstrings it to some degree, as it doesn’t give us much exposure to the actual shark. Of course, Spielberg made that work in Jaws, but White director Martin Wilson isn’t Spielberg.
All of this leaves us with a serviceable shark movie. Nothing about Great White will stick with you, but it won’t disappoint you either.