Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 19, 2019)
Just as the title implies, 2019’s 47 Meters Down: Uncaged acts as a follow-up to 2017’s 47 Meters Down. Don’t expect any of the first film’s characters or actors to carry over to Uncaged, but the return of director Johannes Roberts and writer Ernest Riera allow some form of credibility as a “spiritual sequel”, I guess.
Set in Mexico, we meet a blended family that consists of underwater archaeologist Grant (John Corbett), wife Jennifer (Nia Long), his daughter Mia (Sophie Nélisse) and her daughter Sasha (Corinne Foxx). The two teen girls don’t have much of a connection, so Grant forces them to go on a glass-bottom boat tour to see sharks in their natural habitat.
Before they embark, Sasha’s pals Alexa (Brianne Tju) and Nicole (Sistine Rose Stallone) hijack the stepsisters and take them to a secret pool. This location allows access to the submerged Mayan ruins that Grant studies, and the four teens “borrow” scuba gear so they can check out the historical site.
Matters go awry when a creepy blind fish scares Nicole. Her actions cause a collapse that blocks their exit.
The teens also meet a deadly visitor when a shark discovers them. This sends the foursome on an urgent mission to survive the beast and make it out of the underwater location before their oxygen expires.
Many movies get made for theatrical release but end up straight to video. Few flicks get set for video release and then go to theaters, though.
That’s the path the original Meters took. Not only did the film get a home video release date, but also the studio had already sent out review DVDs before matters changed.
This took Meters from a summer 2016 DVD release to one with a summer 2017 theatrical run, and this paid off for the studio. With a low $5.5 million budget, Meters earned a tidy $44 million.
Uncaged fared less well, though its cheap $12 million budget allowed it to turn a small profit, as it grossed $38 million worldwide. Still, that’s much worse return on investment than its predecessor.
Perhaps Uncaged should’ve been the one to go straight to video. The movie certainly never seems “ready for prime time”, as this awful film feels cheesy and amateurish from start to finish.
The script plays like a checklist, as you can hear the writers mentally mark off the necessary expository points. They place foreshadowing elements in the most obvious way and give the story no organic life.
That extends to the ridiculously underdrawn characters as well. At the start, we learn that her classmates view Mia as an outcast, but we get no sense why, and the movie never bothers to expand her role or any of the others.
I don’t mind that we find out nothing about what led Mia and Sasha’s family to become blended, but we really do need some form of character development. As it stands, we get a cast of pretty but formless roles, and we never even vaguely bond with any of them.
Since a movie like this relies on our interest in the characters’ survival, this turns into a problem. As it stands, we never care at all who lives or dies.
Not that you’ll encounter any surprises in that regard. Oh, in the vein, we get one attack that might qualify as surprising – but not really.
I won’t formally spoil the ending with a reveal of who makes it to the end credits, but it takes no effort to deduce the finale. A semi-seasoned movie fan will figure out the survivors before the film’s first five minutes conclude.
Of course, you’ll find yourself stuck with a slew of absurd plot contrivances along the way – and lots of swimming. We see endless shots of characters as they paddle from here to there to somewhere else.
Do the filmmakers believe these scenes will build tension? Perhaps, but instead, they become awfully tedious, and they feel like they exist solely to pad out this short movie to feature length.
After so much tedium, the filmmakers attempt to ratchet up the excitement in the finale, which means a slew of “big endings”. Uncaged comes with more climaxes than Sting during a 12-hour round of tantric sex, though none of them prove satisfying.
Like everything else, these “conclusions” seems laughable and absurd. I can swallow some disbelief for a film like this, but Uncaged goes to such an extreme that it proves ridiculous. Characters spend ample time stuck in sharks’ mouths and end up barely worse for wear!
Perhaps if the filmmakers winked at the viewer and played some of this for campy laughs, Uncaged might come with some entertainment value. None of that occurs, as the flick takes itself seriously. Too bad the viewer won’t.