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updated: 7/28/2014 9:50 PM

'Sharknado' sequel a must-see treat

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  • Ian Ziering, as Fin Shepard, battles a shark on a New York City street in a scene from "Sharknado 2: The Second One," premiering at 8 p.m. Wednesday on the Syfy network.

      Ian Ziering, as Fin Shepard, battles a shark on a New York City street in a scene from "Sharknado 2: The Second One," premiering at 8 p.m. Wednesday on the Syfy network.
    Associated Press/Syfy

  • Ian Ziering, as Fin Shepard battles a shark on a New York City subway in a scene from "Sharknado 2: The Second One," premiering at 8 p.m. Wednesday on the Syfy network.

      Ian Ziering, as Fin Shepard battles a shark on a New York City subway in a scene from "Sharknado 2: The Second One," premiering at 8 p.m. Wednesday on the Syfy network.
    Associated Press/Syfy

 
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- The Sharknado Evacuation map supplied by Syfy network places Lower Manhattan smack in the zone most in peril this sharknado season. But you might as well batten down the hatches, too.

"Sharknado 2: The Second One" (which, if you hadn't guessed, is an encore follow-up sequel to last summer's campy classic) premieres at 8 p.m. Wednesday.

The original "Sharknado" depicted a weather aberration on the Southern California coast that caused bloodthirsty sharks to rain on hapless Angelenos. But hunky beach-bar owner Fin Shepard (get it: fin shepherd?!) saved the day with a makeshift shark explosion.

Now he's back. Again played by "Beverly Hills, 90210" alumnus Ian Ziering, Fin, in the aftermath of his sharknado trauma, is heading to New York City for a quiet visit along with his beloved ex, April (the returning Tara Reid). It won't surprise you to learn that an even bigger, badder sharknado siege awaits him.

That's the bad news. The good news: "Sharknado 2" is a hilarious must-see treat.

The original film erupted as a social-media and pop-culture phenomenon, mostly celebrated for its unwitting awfulness. It was a throwback to drive-in movies of 50 years ago that you would have ignored while you and your date put your attention elsewhere. A would-be blend of "Jaws" and "Baywatch," it was funny, but never seemed to be in on the joke.

Against all odds, "Sharknado 2" has wised up. Though it and its performers teem with conviction -- no winking at the audience here -- the film is unabashedly awash with fun. And unlike laid-back Cali, New York -- always spoiling for a fight -- is the perfect arena for dramatic strife, even from killer sharks cascading from the sky.

In fact, "Sharknado 2" serves as a paean to the Big Apple. Veteran comedian Robert Klein (playing the mayor of New York in one of the film's numerous celebrity cameos) delivers a rousing call-to-arms for all New Yorkers: "When something bites us, we bite back!" Hizzoner said a mouthful!

Adding to the merriment are the many New York locations. Director Anthony C. Ferrante (back again for the sequel, as is screenwriter Thunder Levin) proves himself as a guerrilla filmmaker, capturing the city up-close-and-personal yet with a remarkably sleek touch. It's a fine-looking film, despite a budget (Ferrante hints) somewhere between $1 million and $2 million and a shooting schedule (he swears) of just 18 days.

"I had only been to New York a few times," Ferrante, who grew up in Northern California, said recently, "and getting to come here and shoot at all these landmarks, I was like a kid in a candy store. When they told me, 'You only get Times Square for two hours, and with only a crew of eight,' I said, 'OK, let's do it!' We shot the whole ferry scene in 15 minutes on the ride back from Liberty Island.

"We needed to do the subway scene, and got a meeting with the MTA. They didn't know what a sharknado is, but we made our case. They said, 'We're gonna give you the platform at Citi Field and a functioning (subway) car for three hours.' And the Mets gave us a 12-hour day at Citi Field. I'm from L.A., but I want the Mets to win the World Series this year. They did me a solid!"

The subway and Citi Field sequences are riotous, and, among the many star turns, "Today" personalities Matt Lauer and Al Roker do some of the best work of their lives providing poker-faced coverage of the raging disaster.

But the film will sink its teeth into you from its first moments as you join Fin and April on their terrifying airline flight. Fasten your seatbelt for a wicked homage. This "Sharknado" is the very definition of scared silly.

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