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movie review out of 4 Movie Review: Anaconda

Starring: Eric Stoltz, Jennifer Lopez
Director: Luis Llosa
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 92 Minutes
Release Date: April 1997
Genres: Action, Horror

Review by MrBrown
0 stars out of 4

"When you can't breathe, you can't scream." That may be true, but when speaking in terms of the new thriller Anaconda, a more fitting tagline would be "When you're laughing your ass off, you can't scream," for this inane jungle adventure is nothing less than Congo '97.

This adventure, directed by Luis Llosa of The Specialist and Sniper fame (or infamy, depending on how you look at it), follows a film crew traveling down the Amazon to make a documentary on a mysterious tribe. The crew is a bunch of flat characters, each with only one discernible personality trait: there's the earnest young director (Jennifer Lopez, the only actor on board who emerges with her dignity intact); the cameraman from the 'hood (Ice Cube); the horny sound guy (Owen Wilson); the bimbo production manager (Kari Wuhrer); the stuffy British host (Jonathan Hyde); the professor/love interest to the director (Eric Stoltz, wasted); and the foreign-accented captain of the boat (Vincent Castellanos). When they stumble upon a mysterious stranger (Jon Voight) in a broken down boat, the crew decides to take him on board. Big mistake. He's --no lie--a psychotic former-priest-turned-snake-hunter from Paraguay, dangerously obsessed with capturing the 40-foot anaconda snake alive--even if it means sacrificing the film crew.

Now, if one is making a movie about snakes--giant, man-eating snakes, no less--one would think that the first order of business would be to come up with convincing snake effects. Apparently, no one involved in Anaconda thought hard enough. The animatronic snakes look like giant rubber hoses with tire treads. Llosa also uses some "state-of-the-art" computer animation for some shots of the snake striking and wrapping around its prey, but the effects are obviously computer generated; the seams are quite visible.

The phony snakes are more than enough to ruin the film, but the true awfulness of Anaconda doesn't stop there. Two words--Jon Voight. As the nominal human villain of the piece, he is a complete embarrassment. If his unconvincing accent (alternately overdone and underdone) isn't bad enough, there are his hilarious leering gazes at Lopez. If that isn't enough, there are his "villainous" looks, clenched teeth and eyes in full bulge, during the physical scenes. The rest of the cast isn't all that great, either, but their work is downright Oscar-caliber compared to Voight's laughably overwrought turn.

Anaconda can best be summed up by a line delivered midway by Lopez without the slightest bit of irony: "This film was supposed to be my big break, and now it's turned into a disaster." You said it.

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