According to Wikipedia, there was a Universal Studios press release for J:TR which conspicuously omitted Jaws 3-D by referring to Jaws: The Revenge as the "third film of the remarkable Jaws trilogy." Ironic: Jaws 3-D might not be a work of art -- certainly not on the level of the first two films, but it's still quite a lot of fun and vastly superior to the fourth installment.
The film is set approximately 11 years after the events of the second film. The Brody children have grown up -- the elder Mike (Dennis Quaid) is now the chief engineer at Sea World in Florida. The park is preparing to open its new Underwater Kingdom attraction - a series of submerged plexiglass tunnels which will permit parkgoers to view the wonders of the deep without getting wet.
A park mechanic gets devoured while repairing the underwater gates to the park -- I saw J3D in the theaters when it was released and remember, to this day, the mechanic's severed arm drifting stump-side out from the screen [cringe].
Mike and his girlfriend/colleague Katherine dive down to the tunnels to investigate. During their search, they encounter the park's resident dolphins, who are aware of the shark and are trying like crazy to communicate the danger to their handlers. When the shark appears, the dolphins are there to shuttle Mike and Katherine to safety. The shark, meanwhile, is drugged, captured and brought into the park for observation.
Everything's fine at this point -- the shark is kept drugged in a private area. But driven by the potential boost in park earnings, Sea World manager Calvin Bouchard (Louis Gosset Jr.) decides to present the shark to the public -- the first great white in captivity. The shark, however, dies scant minutes after going public.
Around this time, the missing mechanic turns up. His mauled upper body floats past one of the tunnels in the Underwater Kingdom. Studying the bites, Katherine determines that they came, not from their captured great white, but from something much, much larger. Turns out, the Sea World folk have captured a baby great white. Its 35-foot mother is still at large and she's pissed about losing her baby.
The remainder of J3D is a blast. The numerous attractions at Sea World, all part of the same underwater complex, provide an array of possible killing grounds for the shark. It's not like in the first two films, in which the shark attacks come either on the shore or in the open sea. This is like a buffet -- the park has a beach, a bumper boats attraction, an underwater restaurant, a water skiing attraction (J3D features the debut of Lea Thompson as one of the skiers) -- the shark pays visits to all of these attractions. The centerpiece, though, is that Underwater Kingdom, with its labyrinth of glass tunnels.
Additionally, all of the leads deliver strong performances. I found Gosset Jr.'s performance particularly compelling. It's unfortunate that the script called for him to be so relentless in his push for park revenue -- his best moments come when he's buttering up the media gaggle.
Watching the Jaws films in reverse order, I'm getting an interesting perspective on character history. As of this writing, I've already seen Jaws 2 and was particularly enthused about the carry-over of the personal history of the Brody brothers. Younger Sean was only 11 at the time of J2 and his phobia lasts into J3D. At age 22, he won't go anywhere near the water until the promise of Lea Thompson's naked bod lures him there.
J:TR also attempted hold-overs, albeit ones that completely short-circuited those of this film. But since the premise of J:TR is so preposterous, these hold-overs serve no other purpose than to remind us of films we had more fun watching. J3D isn't the best of the sequels, but it's polished and it's great fun. Now if I could just find an actual 3D screening of it somewhere...