Jerry O'Connell stars in Alexandre Aja's "Piranha 3D."

Jerry O'Connell stars in Alexandre Aja's "Piranha 3D." Credit: Dimension Films

Filled with gratuitous gore, female nudity and sick jokes, "Piranha 3D" is the kind of movie that decent folk might point to as further proof of cultural decline. It is also an uproariously good time.

A throwback to the exploitation flicks that once sustained the nation's drive-ins, "Piranha 3D" is at heart a spoof of its own genre. You can almost hear the filmmakers tapping pencils against their noggins: Can we get grosser? Can she get more naked? Can she get grosser and more naked? (The answers are yes, yes and resoundingly yes.)

The plot - like you care - begins with an earthquake that disturbs the breeding ground for prehistoric piranhas. ("The original piranha!" hollers Christopher Lloyd as the nutty scientist.) Soon, they're zooming through fictional Lake Victoria and feeding on the firm flesh of college students on spring break. While Sheriff Forester (Elisabeth Shue) tries to close the lake, her son Jake (Steven R. McQueen) finds himself trapped on a sinking boat.

"Piranha 3D," another remake of the enduring 1978 cheapie "Piranha" (itself a gleeful rip-off of "Jaws") does everything possible to push your Pepsi through your nostrils: Bodies turn to pulled pork, derrières dangle in the water, one fellow's favorite body part meets a sad end. (In 3D, yet.) And how about that motorboat propeller? Nice one!

With a surprisingly strong cast (Jerry O'Connell steals the show as a coked-out porn producer) and a few genuine white-knuckle moments, "Piranha 3D" succeeds mostly because it has the right attitude: When expectations are low, you might as well meet them.

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