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