It’s pointless to dismiss “Spring Break Shark Attack” as ludicrous, chintzy-looking, amateurishly written and ineptly played. The title alone guarantees a sizable sampling, and teasing promos suggesting “Girls Gone Wild” debauchery will further pump up the tune-in.

Productions like this are said to be critic-proof, because quality, or lack of it, has nothing to do with the Nielsen ratings, the only thing that matters to networks. CBS Chairman Leslie Moonves gleefully pointed this out in the current Playboy interview. “We had a catastrophe movie recently (“Category 6: Day of Destruction”) that was soundly hated by reviewers but was the highest-rated new miniseries in five years. It was cheesy. … But people like those. It was popcorn. The reviewers took it a little too seriously. On Sunday night, people want to have fun.”

Fun in this case would amount to laughing at the absurdities. Not the least of them is the continuing backdrop of mountain ranges along the shoreline of what is supposed to be South Florida.

When such a geographic faux pas occurs in other productions, it is generally a brief shot that slipped past film editors or that they hoped would be missed by the audience. The peaks are a constant in this movie. The explanation: The film was shot in South Africa. (You just can’t make Canada, the first choice of bean-counter producers, look like South Florida in January and February.)

Emmys must not be worth their melt-down value when it comes to sustaining a career. The big name in the credits is Kathy Baker, who has three best-actress statues for “Picket Fences.” She is little more than a bit player in the CBS Sunday movie, as the mother of a young hunk. Bryan Brown, a long way from playing a heartthrob in “The Thorn Birds,” also settles for a minor role as an oily businessman – the adjective is a redundancy in TV movies – who hits on Baker’s character.

The pivotal role, a college student named Danielle, belongs to Shannon Lucio, whom fans of “The O.C.” will recognize as Lindsay, the girlfriend who just split on Ryan. Danielle is a virginal goody-goody who decides just once she is going to do something bold and daring before she settles into a boring life in her daddy’s law firm. Lying to her folks about what she is up to, she heads to Florida to join her friends on Spring Break. Her bookish brother Charlie (Wayne Thornley), a graduate student studying shark behavior at a South Florida college, warns her that an artificial reef has incited a fierce species of sharks into a feeding frenzy. Stay out of the water, he cautions.

Of course, there is no chance of this happening. Danielle and her hot-bodied friends didn’t come to Florida to go antiquing. Even after Spring Breakers start to turn up on beaches chomped in half, they act like, well, Spring Breakers.

Maybe it’s because the sharks – for the most part, only fins are visible above the waterline – look as authentic as the ones you’d see at an amusement park boat ride for 3-year-olds.

Not all the sharks are in the water. Danielle meets a creep who’s in a different kind of frenzy and isn’t above using date-rape drugs to satisfy his lust. Fortunately, Danielle also strikes up an acquaintance with the handsome and heroic Shane (Riley Smith), the son of Kathy Baker’s character. A working-class kid, he’s doing odd jobs to build a college fund.

Where are Frankie and Annette when you need them? Even now, they could do a better job in this beach-blanket bikini epic than the young people in the cast.

With the information provided, you can probably construct every scene in the film, including the outcome. But this won’t stop you from watching.


Stars: Shannon Lucio, Kathy Baker, Bryan Brown, Riley Smith

Airs: 9 p.m. EST Sunday on CBS

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.