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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

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie reviewvideo review
2.  MrBrown read the review no stars
3.  Walter Frith read the review movie reviewmovie review
4.  Edward Johnson-Ott read the review no stars
5.  Andrew Hicks read the review movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review

Review by Steve Rhodes
1½ stars out of 4

"I don't know if you know, but this film was supposed to be my big break," says Jennifer Lopez as documentarian Terri Flores. "Now, it's a turned into a disaster." And so does the film ANACONDA -- right after the opening credits.

Luckily for Jennifer Lopez, she had a tremendous hit, SELENA, before ANACONDA was released, because this grade B movie with grade A special effects could do serious damage to the career of a newer actor.

Okay, let's set the cast for our cruise down the Amazon. Jennifer Lopez plays our bumfuzzled documentary director, who manages to look alluring and keep on her make-up no matter how hot and humid the climate.

Giving the only respectable acting performance in the show, Hip Hopper and actor Ice Cube plays the documentary cameraman. As the one credible character on the boat, the audience can use his part as a standard to judge the degree of ridiculousness of the others.

Owen Wilson (BOTTLE ROCKET) ostensibly plays Gary, the sound mixer, but actually his is the classical role of the gullible blonde who has good looks but little brains. He gets some asinine lines, including my favorite, "Is it just me or does the jungle make you really, really horny?" Yes, our titillating script makes you think that sex, just like the monster, is just around the corner. Kari Salin plays Denise Kalber, whose main role in the film is that of someone for Gary to ogle.

Eric Stoltz briefly appears as the anthropologist Dr. Steven Cale. Shakespearean actor Jonathan Hyde is cast as the documentary's narrator Warren Westridge. Warren, the quintessential twit, drinks his white wine from his personal crystal goblet while floating down the Amazon in a beat-up barge. Danny Trejo plays Poacher, the captain of the ill-fated boat.

Jon Voight, who was so brilliant in ROSEWOOD, returns to his old habit of picking miserable material. In ANACONDA, he plays Paul Sarone, the Captain Ahab of the snake hunting world. Voight, sneering through the entire movie, gives a pathetic and unbelievable performance.

(As the characters die in the movie, see if you notice an interesting relationship with the order of their death and the actor's probable salary.)

Finally, there are the real stars of the show -- the snakes. According to the press kit, there were two animatronic snakes which were augmented with computer imaging. The largest snake was 40 feet long and weighed over a ton. The kit goes on to claim that snakes like these do exist.

The special effects are the only reason to see the film. The fake snakes' movements are fascinating. Director Luis Llosa uses typical horror film techniques to shock and gross out the audience. We get to hear people's bones snap, and we get an inside view from the snake's stomach as someone is swallowed alive. The snake even gets to regurgitate one of its human kills. And you will lose count of how many times snakes and humans come back from the dead to fight one more time.

Perhaps because the filmmakers realized how hopeless ANACONDA was, they pumped up the music and the background sounds so much that you will leave the theater looking for a little peace and quiet. One thing that can be said for the film, it does have a high energy level and lots of action, even if it is all preposterous.

ANACONDA runs a mercifully short 1:30. It is rated PG-13 for gross and sometimes gory violence. I'd be careful about letting kids under 13 go unless they are used to schlock horror films. I give the movie thumbs down and * 1/2 for the special effects.

Copyright 1997 Steve Rhodes

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