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'The Shallows': Blake Lively, a bikini and a giant leaping shark. You'll eat it up

The most enjoyable thing about The Shallows is looking forward to seeing The Shallows — and that is not a dig. 

There is a special kind of mouthwatering anticipation in knowing that 1) this movie will surely be pretty bad, and 2) you will be delighted by each of its 87 minutes. It's a moviegoing can’t-lose: If you're wrong on the first point and the film is surprisingly good, you win! And if you're right, it’s a bigger win, because not only were you entertained, but you called it!

Herein lies the genius of The Shallows — unofficial alternate title The Blake Lively Shark Movie — from cheap-thrills clown prince Jaume Collet-Serra (Orphan, Non-Stop). Blake Lively, peach bikini, surfing, giant leaping death-fish, ticking clock, air-conditioned theater, ten-dollar popcorn, leaving the house.

If you want to see this summer schlockbuster — for any of the above reasons, and even just a little bit — you absolutely should.

That's because despite all its silly distractions, missed opportunities to build any real tension and Syfy Channel-grade special effects, there is something bulletproof about putting Lively, who is approaching Gwyneth Paltrow levels of appearing to lack both life struggles and self-awareness, into this little pickle.

That pickle, communicated with dazzling clarity in its marketing outlay from Sony, is as follows:

A young medical student, preposterously privileged with looks, brains, athleticism and means, is attacked by a shark while surfing a hidden cove in Mexico. Deeply wounded but alive, she takes refuge 200 yards from shore on a rock outcropping that is exposed at low tide, yet totally submerged when the tide is high.

Circling her temporary perch is the great white beast, a bungalow-sized bristle of fins and teeth that has already made breakfast and lunch of the locals and is now eyeing her for dinner. When it becomes clear that no one is coming around to the rescue, the rising tide forces her to make a plan.

Blake Lively vs. The Shark: How can you deny that? The elegant simplicity of its premise is what makes The Shallows so much fun to anticipate. Not since Snakes on a Plane has something been so easy and fun to imagine.

Naturally, as obviously bad movies go, The Shallows is dragged under by expository asides and “plot” devices: the hovering presence of Lively’s long-dead mother, a seagull whom she can voice-command like a dog, her tendency to talk herself through pain and suffering like a med student practicing bedside manner, and the anthropomorphic malevolence of the shark itself.

It’s all wholly unnecessary — we came for Blake v shark, why can’t we just have that and only that? — but it hardly ruins the experience. In fact, in a way it fulfills the prophecy. And maybe that’s even more satisfying than an accidentally “good” movie taking a bite out of our expectations.

That is not to say The Shallows is a so-bad-it’s-good movie. Those are a special category. Instead, this one plays it just close enough to reality to bring us along to the end, and much credit is due Lively’s game performance, which is mostly believable (despite the hammy “dialogue”) and impressively physical (despite her precious, untouchable L.A. face).

And as for that big finale? You'll never believe how low these adversaries will go.

When it’s over you’ll have gotten what you came for ... whether that was a good movie or a bad one.

Editor's note: We figured The Shallows was good a movie as any to launch Mashable's "Good/Bad/Love/Hate Matrix." Look for it in all of our movie reviews going forward.

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